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Connected and Secure: Washington DC Metro PD Mobile Data: A Case Study

Author: Doug Louie, Sr. Director Product Marketing - Mobility Management Solutions, Smith Micro, Inc.

Date: 2013-05-13
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Mobile laptop computers have become indispensible to today’s public safety officers.  The amount of data at an officer’s fingertips in mere seconds is staggering.  However, being “mobile” presents challenges in terms of how these mobile devices are connected to the systems and networks that provide that valuable data.  Connectivity options range from 3G to 4G to public and private WiFI networks.

The District of Columbia, Office of Unified Communications (OUC) handles almost two million 9-1-1 calls each year including call traffic from the DC Metro Police Department (MPDC), Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) and customer service operations. OUC needed a connectivity solution that offered a seamless transition between commercial mobile and secure Wi-Fi, as well as a platform for multiple operating systems for the MPDC.  As the tenth largest police department in the nation, this was a critical need.

After searching solutions from various vendors, the District of Columbia OUC selected Smith Micro’s QuickLink Mobility for deployment by the DC Metro Police Department as it meets all of the department’s needs. First, it delivers an end-to-end solution that incorporates best-of-breed connection management, security, policy management and deployment in a single, easy-to-use package. Second, it meets compliance access requirements set by the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), which was an extremely important requirement during the search for the right solution.  Smith Micro’s solution meets these standards by incorporating advanced authentication for mobile systems. Additionally, the company collaborated with the OUC to ensure that police officers in the field always maintain seamless access to all 3G and Wi-Fi connections from their mobile devices in their vehicles, with persistent access to back-office applications through a simple user interface.  

Consistent and persistent access to critical network and online systems is a primary need for MPDC.  Officers in the field rely on their systems to provide them unfettered access when they need it. They simply cannot afford to have their systems or access down\ when crises demand their attention. It was critical, then, to have a solution in place that can provide a security gateway along with a mobile VPN that ensures secure connectivity along with session persistence. QuickLink Mobility recognizes available and approved network connections and automatically connects the officer’s systems seamlessly in the background.  So even though the connections may change from one 3G network to another, or perhaps to Wi-Fi, all of the officer’s systems stay connected. With this solution in place, the MPDC is no longer required to log in again and again each session.  Even with lost connectivity in a dead zone, for instance, sessions stay open and emerge in range of networks once again.  With all the systems and applications potentially open on an officer’s laptop at any given time, this ability to keep sessions persistent has a major impact upon productivity and usability.  In a world where every second counts, this speaks for itself.

While hassle-free connectivity is essential for MPDC officers, the department faced another critical need that Smith Micro’s solution needed to alleviate. The MPDC was mandated to limit access to approved secure network connections because the growth and availability of public Wi-Fi raises the risk of officer’s connecting to these unsecure networks.  Given the sensitive data available on officers’ networks and systems at any time, it is critical that the highest security protocols are observed and enforced.  Fortunately, QuickLink Mobility features a very robust rules engine that enables a powerful policy manager. This allows the department’s IT administrators greater control and flexibility in detailing connection policies.  These administrator-defined policies allow the police department to whitelist and blacklist specific connectivity options and networks, as well as determine the priority of connections. 

The final challenge centered on compliance standards. The MPDC needs to ensure compliance with the new advanced authentication requirements mandated by CJIS.  Advanced authentication, also known as two-factor authentication, is a security process that requires users to present two different login credentials. Previously, user IDs and passwords were sufficient but under the revised mandate, individual officers are required to use an added measure to access the CJIS network. Some common secondary credentials utilize ID card scanners, biometric readers, and security keys and stickers.

With so many challenges to overcome, using Smith Micro’s QuickLink Mobility solution was a perfect choice. It addresses officers’ connectivity pain points while keeping the department compliant with requirements outlined by the CJIS. Additionally, the solution has enabled greater efficiency and network security among the MPDC officers.

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