U.S. snoops are catching up to the masses in their gradual embrace of 21 st-century technology, from installing wireless connections in secure facilities to wielding iPhones and tablets, according to an official with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Wed be cutting off our snouts to spite our faces by denying us those kinds of tools, Matt Conner, deputy chief datum security officer of the agency, said in an interview.

The NGA provides intelligence to other parts of the governmental forces from battlefield maps to satellite imagery of national calamities. Its among bureaux that are working with the Director of National Intelligence to analyse how to maximize the use of secure wireless networks and devices, while still maintaining the covering that snoops need.

Already, NGA has secure wireless for its senior leaders in its mammoth headquarters in Springfield, Virginia, outside of Washington, Conner told. Protective equipment needed to make a wireless system secure can be costly and “there are people who are skeptical that theres value there, ” he told.

Cloud Services

Conner, 41, a former info security officer with General Dynamics Corp ., and others at the NGA migrated last year from BlackBerry devices to iPhones, although they arent allowed to use them in relevant agencies building. The bureau is also “moving swiftly” toward cloud services with Amazon Web Service on both its encrypted classified network and its unclassified network, as well as working with Microsoft Corp. on other cloud-based resources, he said.

In addition, it has developed internal mobile apps for workers as well as a few that are available to the public in Apple Inc.s App Store and on Alphabet Inc.s Google Play. Its Mobile Awareness GEOINT Environment app helps first responders in natural disasters by letting them geotag field reports and to record photos, videos and audio to share with others.

The agency also has opened an outpost in Silicon Valley. Its staff is trying to learn from startups and tech companies, which are making sophisticated yet widely available commercial geospatial tools, such as Google Earth.

Bin Laden Model

NGA, which operates under the Defense Department, built the model of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Ladens compound in Pakistan that the military used for training before the 2011 raid that killed him. This year, NGA provided intelligence to authorities during the course of its Olympics in Rio.

Conner supervises the cybersecurity of vast digital repositories and the transfer of intelligence data. NGA utilizes encryption for long-haul communication between bureaux as well as for the images and products resting in its libraries, he told. His squad of a few cases hundred civilian employees and contractors also has to “sanitize” data that teams collect from social media and other open-source streams, screening for malware.

As with other military bureaux, NGAs computer network are targeted by other nations, according to Conner, who wouldnt name countries but said “theyre likely the ones you think they are.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation has high confidence recent hacking assaults on U.S. political groups and election systems were orchestrated by Russia, according to a person familiar with the agencys probe. President Vladimir Putin has repudiated the accusations.

The high-profile reports of hacking have “absolutely created the visibility” of his run, Conner told. “Ive joked often that its a good problem to have — we have more senior-level attention on our cybersecurity program that Im aware of, ” he said.

The agency also takes menaces from within seriously after the leaks by Edward Snowden, who worked for a National Security Agency contractor.

“Were conscious of the insider, ” Conner said. “We have a very robust program to manage our insider menace, at least bolstered by the Snowden revealings three years ago, and that is across the federal agency space.”

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