There have been rumors that NSA was contemplating the use of Android devices. Now, personnel from NSA have officially confirmed this. NSA is actually using the modern smartphone devices as an off-the-shelf solution and then modifies and incorporates hardware and software it needs on these devices. It has been confirmed now that NSA is currently using some 100 Motorola Android phones on secure networks, being used by NSA employees under Project Fishbowl.
NSA has been planning for some time to get a break from the expensive custom-built systems and go on to use the user-friendly state-of-the-art smartphone devices which are commonly available. But this solution will require a bit of tweaking before these smartphones could be secure enough for NSA employees. Consequently, according to a NSA technical director, the smartphones from Motorola which are currently tooled under Project Fishbowl feature a stripped-down version of Android together with multiple layers of encryption to ensure security. Moreover, there’s a ‘police app’ on the devices which keeps log of everything that is being done through the device.
NSA didn’t tell whether or not it modified the hardware of the device to tailor it to their needs. But it is quite probable that the agency had the smartphone specifically tailored to their needs, even in terms of hardware. The data of these devices in use at NSA is ensured by routing all calls and other data-flow from these devices first to NSA servers. This data is encrypted when it moves from the smartphone to NSA servers. At the servers, this data is verified, logged and re-encrypted. Once this has been done, the data is then relayed back to the network and then on to its destination.
All this is still in testing in NSA but NSA does look forward to a future where it can collaborate directly with industry giants and have its needs transformed into commercially produced smartphone devices which can then be customized by the agency.