As federal agencies increasingly look to mobile technology to cut costs, Motorola Solutions, Inc. [MSI] is securing data down to the physical chip with its Assured Mobile Environment (AME 2000), the company said.

The enterprise communications provider, which got its start in defense providing radios during World War II, introduced AME to combine its expertise in cryptography with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) devices using an Android operating system.  

With many firms vying for space in the growing federal and defense mobile market, Motorola looks at both hardware and software for security, according to Scott Rover, director of the company’s Secure Mobility Solutions.

“We really treat the device as the first line of defense,” he said.

That means the chip powering the device is encrypted itself, not just the software that runs on it. The chip will self-destruct if someone tampers with it. The differentiator with this encrypted chip, Rover said, is that it can be dropped into any Android-based device that uses a microSD chip, which includes many common smartphones and tablets.  

Rover compared the chip to how a Common Access Card (CAC) uses a certificate to allow access.

“Instead of having the CAC be separate, you can insert it into the device,” he said.

AME has been trialed with several federal customers, including major military commands, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a federal law enforcement agency, Rover said.

While the solution was introduced in February and became available in March, the company said it is now waiting on an approval process from the National Security Agency (NSA) to expand its use. Since NSA does not have a blanket approval process for the Suite B standard of encryption that AME uses, Rover said interested clients must write a letter to the NSA requesting approval on a case-by-case basis. He said he expects a change in this procedure by the end of the year, opening the market for Motorola and its competitors. 

AME is Motorola’s response to the NSA’s Commercial Solutions for Classified Program (CSfC). Established in June 2012, CSfC encourages securing commercial products to reduce the time needed to field new communications technology.