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Government reviews data security rules to widen device clearance

Kathleen Hall

The government has re-categorised its data security rules to widen the range of devices beyond Blackberry cleared to handle government data.

Under the new bands, information classified as restricted will be loosely regrouped as “official”, meaning a greater range of phones will be given the green light to handle sensitive data.

Blackberry is the only phone currently cleared for restricted information, but the long-term viability of the company is increasingly been called into question as parent company RIM sees profits plummet.

The new system is due to go live mid-2013, with departments expected to deliver feedback to the Cabinet Office by 8 February.

“Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and head of civil service Bob Kerslake want departments to adopt the new policy as soon as practicable,” said a letter to departments seen by Computer Weekly.

The risks posed in the event of government information being compromised are currently categorised under a six business impact level system. 0 denotes the lowest risk and 6 categorises top secret data. The new categories will be marked "official", "secret" and "top secret".

Assets previously classified up to and including restricted (impact level 3) should be managed at official, advised the guidance. Restricted information should only move into the secret tier where it could compromise the workings of government, it said.

“Organisations must be mindful that there is a very significant step-up from official to secret and that the benefits of the new policy will be eroded if they are too risk-averse and seek to put more information into secret than is absolutely necessary,” said the guidance.

The moves follow a review by government security arm CESG which concluded that iOS6, the latest operating system (OS) for iPhones and iPads, is now secure enough to handle restricted government information, providing departments build in additional security controls.

However, it is hoped that the revised marking system will allow for a wider range of smartphone adoption across government.
 


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