Security Guidance for First Responder Mobile and Wearable Devices

NIST
September 29, 2020

REPORT Details

A first responder is the first at the scene of an emergency incident. Their day-to-day includes life-saving and sometimes life-threatening activities. As commercial and enterprise technology advance, first responders have the opportunity to take advantage of this technology to enhance their efficiency, safety, and capabilities during an incident. The nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), is steadily deployed across the United States and operated by AT&T under the guidance of the First Responders FirstNet Authority (FirstNet)., per the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. Networks like those provided by FirstNet by AT&T and the NPSBN will allow first responders to use modern communication technology (smartphones/mobile devices) as well as other smart devices (smart wearables) to accomplish their public safety mission.

As with any new technology, there are security concerns, such as the vulnerabilities and threats to their users. In the case of public safety there are concerns that exploits of vulnerabilities may inhibit first responders from performing their duties and put their safety at risk. NISTIR 8196 Security Analysis of First Responder Mobile and Wearable Devices, is a document that was produced in a previous study to understand the specific security needs of smart devices for first responders. The document captures the various use cases of public safety mobile and wearable devices, the known attacks on public safety mobile and wearable devices, and information received from interviews with actual public safety officials. Due to their unique roles, environments, and situations, the information in NISTIR 8196 is important to grasp the first responder perspective and analyze the security objectives necessary for all devices.

Mass production of mobile and wearable smart devices makes it easy to find and buy any device that may meet one’s wants and needs. Technology is primarily produced for the general consumer or enterprise and not specifically designed with public safety in mind. This could lead to potential repercussions if the appropriate device is procured without consideration of the security and safety of first responders. When it comes to selecting mobile and wearable devices, there is little security guidance that focuses on the particular needs of public safety. During an emergency, a first responder should have some assurance that their devices are reliable and secure.

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NIST
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.

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