Securing Law Enforcement Technology in the Field With MDM
Rugged mobile police devices, such as tablets and 2-in-1 laptops, have become an essential component of the law enforcement technology stack. These devices enable officers to perform their duties effectively, efficiently and securely in the field. But greater access to sensitive data requires tighter security to ensure mobile police computers don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Due to the need to monitor and maintain these rugged devices, mobile device management (MDM) software also plays an important role in law enforcement data security and Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) compliance. Additionally, leveraging MDM capabilities as an end-to-end solution for deploying, monitoring, and managing rugged field devices frees up a department’s IT staff to focus on higher-value activities.
Mobile Police Laptops Offer Greater Flexibility, Higher Risk
In conjunction with high-speed broadband connectivity, modern law enforcement technology allows officers in the field to access the data they need to do their jobs, no matter where it resides. Patrol officers, detectives, forensics specialists, and other field operatives gain quick and efficient access to the department’s background check, case management, records management, citation systems, reporting systems, and more.
Beyond that local data, users may also utilize mobile law enforcement technology to access databases controlled by the CJIS, including:
- The National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
- The National Data Exchange (N-DEx)
- The Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP)
- Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
- Next Generation Identification (NGI)
- Various FBI-maintained databases that support law enforcement
Without proper security measures, local and federal data can become compromised if an officer’s device is lost, stolen, or hacked. Individuals responsible for providing unauthorized access or dissemination of CJIS information may be subject to federal and state civil and criminal penalties. Furthermore, the agencies they work for may have access to CJIS suspended or revoked, ultimately inhibiting the ability of departments to conduct investigations.
MDM Solutions to CJIS Regulations
The risks to sensitive information are why using mobile law enforcement technology to access CJIS systems requires MDM software and centralized administration. An MDM solution can guarantee the following security features and their compliance with CJIS system regulations:
- Remote locking: Prevents a device from being accessed if it is lost or stolen.
- Remote wiping: Erases all software and data from a device.
- Setting and locking device configuration: MDM system loads configuration onto the device, along with settings to prevent configuration changes.
- Detection of “rooted” and “jailbroken” devices: Detects when the operating system and restricted settings have been accessed and/or changed.
- Enforcement of folder or disk level encryption: Ensures that data encryption is in place at the proper level.
- Application of mandatory policy settings on the device: Establishes security policies across all settings before device deployment.
- Detection of unauthorized configuration: Continuous monitoring to identify configuration changes or unallowed settings.
- Detection of unauthorized software: Identifies the installation and/or presence of unauthorized software or applications on the device.
- Device location detection: Ability to locate any device at any time using GPS.
- Prevention of unpatched devices from accessing CJI or CJI systems: Verifies that all operating system and software patches have been applied and establishes settings that prevent unpatched devices from accessing CJIS systems
- Automatic device wiping after access failure: Monitors device access attempts (attempts to enter a passcode or use biometric identity), counts them, and automatically wipes the device as specified when that number is exceeded
Simplifying Device Deployment and Management
The critical nature of law enforcement requires that preparation, support and troubleshooting of mobile devices can happen quickly to prevent downtime in the field. However, managing a fleet of deployed mobile devices can quickly become overwhelming for IT staff if they need to service each device individually or by appointment.
Departments also need the ability to facilitate new device rollouts quickly to avoid any interruption of service and operations. Manually ensuring that each device meets security compliance requirements and is ready for field service will also strain the bandwidth of an agency’s IT team and dramatically increases the risk of human error.
MDM software streamlines device deployment and reduces IT staff workload by storing policy-based and role-based settings and system images, using them to automatically configure new devices with the appropriate user IDs, operating system updates and apps, as well as connectivity, security, and other configurations.
In addition to device provisioning, MDM device management functions include:
- Mobile asset inventory management to record and track deployment of all law enforcement technology.
- Remote diagnostics and troubleshooting tools for identifying and resolving issues that occur in the field to prevent downtime.
- Backup and restoration of data stored on the device.
- Monitoring network usage and troubleshooting connectivity issues.
- Logging, audit trail, and reporting of device use and issues.
- Adding or removing devices from the system.
What to Look for in an MDM Provider
CJIS compliance — the ability to meet all CJIS requirements and pass an audit — is a must for any law enforcement MDM system. That should be your first screening differentiator.
Law enforcement agencies should look for an MDM software vendor that supports both Windows and Android operating systems (OS), as well as over-the-air (OTA) deployments for each one, to ensure compatibility with the broadest range of devices. Multi-OS compatibility prevents vendor lock-in on mobile devices and enables support for squad car laptops, convertibles, and tablets.
Leveraging rugged police computers, police tablets and other mobile law enforcement technology combined with endpoint security solutions like those provided by Absolute Software grants reliable, secure access to databases and other critical information from the field while ensuring compliance with CJIS regulations. Even better, when Absolute Persistence software is built into the firmware of mobile devices, it can track the status and location of devices in the event they are lost and stolen. Absolute Persistence will then reinstall itself to provide geographic location, system details, webcam access, and more to aid evidence gathering and support recovery. These features can be essential for ensuring critical law enforcement data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Beyond compliance and security concerns, look for an MDM that also offers dashboards, reports and implementation tools that make it easy to monitor, manage, and report on the fleet of devices under agency control.
Lastly, look for a provider that supports the best implementation method for your department, whether that means on-premise on your server and managed by your organization, hosted and managed by the provider, or in the cloud as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The latter option makes advanced capabilities accessible to even small departments. However, there is one caveat: make sure the vendor’s hosted or cloud data centers are also CJIS-compliant if you plan to access CJIS data.
MDM Keeps Law Enforcement Technology Secure
Law enforcement agencies face unique security challenges due to the amount of privileged information they handle. Managing this sensitive data appropriately is essential for maintaining public trust, ensuring the integrity of investigations and convictions, and safeguarding the privacy of individual citizens. As law enforcement technology advances, security measures must keep pace.
In the field, lives are on the line every day. Mobile device management is essential to protecting law enforcement officers, and so are the rugged mobile devices you deploy. Combining efficient rugged mobile devices with advanced MDM capabilities can help you increase situational awareness, improve productivity, and enhance accountability. The Panasonic TOUGHBOOK® line of products offers a full spectrum of rugged mobile law enforcement technology solutions.