Every day, companies like Google and Apple wage a constant battle to keep malicious apps out of their marketplaces and off people’s phones. And while they do catch a lot of malware before it does any damage, there are always a few nasty infiltrators that manage to sneak by and end up getting downloaded by thousands of consumers. No one wants these mistakes to happen, but when you’re a crucial app store for the Department of Defense, these mistakes can’t happen.
That was the problem facing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as it set about creating a flexible yet ultrasecure app store in 2012. NGA is a combat support organization that primarily assesses and distributes geospatial intelligence. The agency wanted to provide sensitive and mission-critical apps to groups across the DOD through a platform that had the security and resilience of a government defense product, while also offering a streamlined, up-to-date user experience similar to ubiquitous commercial app stores.
“We recognized that we did not know everything when it came to apps, and we wanted to be using the innovation that was happening in the commercial sector,” says Joedy Saffel, division chief and source director of NGA who has worked on the GEOINT App Store from the beginning. “But how do we do that in a safe, secure manner? How do we do that from a contractual perspective? And how do we do that in a way that nontraditional vendors will trust doing business with the government? It was a great challenge.”