The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has recently scaled up its efforts to have clinical and administrative staff use iPhones and iPads. If this effort is successful, thousand of government employees at the VA could be using these types of mobile devices for multiple purposes in the near future.
The VA is the second largest department in the government after the Department of Defense and this pilot is a sign that government is truly going mobile. For many, though, this is not a major surprise since smart phone and tablet usage has reached near ubiquity for the consumer population in the U.S.
The challenge for the VA will be effectively scaling up mobile usage across the agency, as well as managing security – especially since much of the data that the VA manages is veterans’ personal health records. In terms of scaling up effectively, the VA is looking to procure a mobile management system, which will help manage this Herculean effort.
From a security perspective, fortunately, this effort will minimize the use of personal mobile devices by VA employees. Though, securing mobile devices is one the biggest challenges that any agency could face. Symantec recently issued a study that highlighted how cyber attacks were up 81 percent in 2011 and mobile devices were a main target. Of course, this study did not focus on government, but it is a sign that hackers are looking for ways to access data through iPhones and iPads.
We certainly applaud the VA’s efforts to bring more mobile solutions to its workforce. This will certainly help improve efficiencies and effectiveness for its employees. We just hope that solid steps are taken during this pilot to mitigate and security threats that may be lurking in the shadows.