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GCHQ Gives Government Green Light For Wider iPhone Use

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

CESG paves the way for wider use of iOS devices across government

GCHQ – the UK government intelligence agency, has advised that iPhones and iPads are fine for handling more sensitive government data.

Until now, CESG, the information assurance arm of GCHQ, has said iOS phones and tablets should only be used for Impact Level 1 data – the lowest level of data sensitivity. Impact Level 6 is the highest, covering the most critical information.

CESG told TechWeekEurope it had put together fresh risk management advice for government on iOS 6, released in September. The guidance covers email protection, suggesting data categorised under Levels 1 to 3 could now be used on phones or tablets running Apple’s latest mobile operating system.

GCHQ approval

“The guidance is based on existing CESG security procedures for iOS, but includes updated guidance, additional technical controls and improvements to user guidelines to more effectively manage identified risks with mobile working,” a spokesperson said.

“The guidance is primarily appropriate for lower threat environments, such as those at Impact Level 3 and below. Other deployments, such as those at higher classifications or impact levels, could be guided by our publication and would be subject to local risk management decisions.

“This guidance updates the previous guidance, which was for very low threat situations. As such, this guidance is appropriate for more sensitive information than was previously the case.”

Opening up iPhones for greater use in government could challenge the hegemony of BlackBerry devices across departments. According to Computer Weekly, RIM’s devices are still the phones of choice in government and were the only phones CESG advised officials use for more sensitive data. There are currently around 20,000 BlackBerry devices in circulation, according to Whitehall sources.

Given the popularity of the iPhone, when compared to BlackBerrys, this could be set to change. However, in the US, RIM just received a boost as its BlackBerry 10 operating system was  granted security clearance by the US government.

Yet that news came just two weeks after the US Immigration and Customers Enforcement Agency (ICE) said it was going to ditch BlackBerrys in favour of iPhones.

What do you know about BlackBerrys? Find out with our quiz!