DOD looking to embrace HR mobile apps, but security is an issue

DOD looking to embrace HR mobile apps, but security is an issue

Agencies and departments across the federal government are increasingly coming to appreciate the value and utility that mobile solutions can deliver for their personnel. By developing their own in-house apps to address agency-specific challenges and goals, mobile solutions can make federal departments more agile, responsive and efficient.

Recently the Department of Defense announced that its latest effort in this realm concerns human resources apps for service members, Federal News Radio reported. If successful, these apps will make it much easier for DOD personnel to view a variety of their HR-related information easily through their personal mobile devices. However, to reach this point, several key issues – including the challenge of securing these apps and the information they deliver – must first be addressed. 

HR access for the DOD
Speaking at a recent conference, William Marion, the Air Force personnel branch's lead technology official, emphasized the fact that the DOD has not put much effort toward mobile development up until this point.

"The DOD has not put much effort toward mobile development up until this point."

"We have moved very heavily into Web services infrastructure over the last couple years, but we are very light on the mobile front, very, very light," Marion said, according to the news provider. "Right now if you took one of our Web pages and tried to shrink it on an iPhone, it's not usable. That user experience is just not there."

Instead of embracing responsive design for these pages, the DOD is exploring mobile app development. These apps would allow personnel to view a variety of HR information, including compensation, benefits and more, Federal News Radio explained. The goal, according to Marion, is to deliver to service members the same level of convenience and usability that they are now used to in their private lives. 

Security concerns
For these HR mobile apps to prove successful for the DOD, though, the department must first overcome the major challenges presented by security in the mobile space. More specifically, Marion emphasized the security complexity which cloud integration and the Internet of Things enter into the equation.

"All of that proliferation is really going to force us to think completely differently or maybe just a lot deeper beyond the layered security model," said Marion, the news source reported. "I think that market is maturing."

The difficulty, and necessity, of securing mobile solutions is a recurring and widespread issue for the federal government across the board. Samsung Business's recent "The State of Federal Mobile Security" determined that the overall federal mobile security index registers at 54.5 out of a possible 100.

"The federal mobile security index registers at 54.5 out of a possible 100."

To a certain degree, this suboptimal rating can be attributed to poor mobile habits among federal personnel. Only 55 percent of surveyed workers said they update and patch mobile device software as soon as these updates become available, and more than one-fifth said they wait longer than a week to implement these new patches. Additionally, one-third of federal employees indicated they do not back up their mobile data and only about half of these personnel could remotely wipe their smartphones if they were lost or stolen, the report noted.

"What the data suggests is that the federal workforce is increasingly reliant on mobile technologies to accomplish their missions," said Will Colston, general manager of operations at Government Executive Media Group, Samsung Business reported. "But at the same time, many are still engaging in risky behaviors when mobile security should be a top-of-mind concern."

It is important to note, however, that these risky behaviors are made worse when the mobile apps themselves are vulnerable to potential cyberattacks or inadvertent data breaches.

Achieving secure mobility
Given all of this, it is imperative for the DOD and all other federal agencies to carefully consider how to best take advantage of mobile's benefits while maintaining strict security standards. 

Critically, agency leaders must look for mobile platform and software development partners that have demonstrated success and expertise in the realms of both mobile solutions and cybersecurity. What's more, the developing firm must embrace development strategies that account for unique form factors and integration with complex systems, all while ensuring a simple, intuitive user experience.