Outlook Mobile heads to the White House, passes infosec clearance for federal sector

Need to email an order for a s*$tload of hamburgers from your smartphone? Microsoft has an app for that

The US government may be enduring its longest shutdown in history, but federal workers can at least console themselves with Microsoft’s Outlook mobile app that has been given security clearance for use.

That's for Android and iOS, of course; hard-pressed workers have suffered enough without having Windows Phone inflicted upon them.

Microsoft has updated the security architecture for its on-the-go email botherer, Outlook, to satisfy the needs of both Office 365 US Government Community Cloud (GCC) High and the Department of Defense (DoD) environments.

This, in addition to gaining FedRAMP* Moderate compliance last year, means that all US government customers can now use the thing.

The main change to the platform is the removal of middle tier services, which made the Feds nervous, in favour of something a little more native.

Microsoft’s native sync technology connects the Outlook mobile app directly to a compliant Exchange Online back-end. The data stays in its mailbox, which means it also stays in the region in which the tenant is located.

Microsoft was keen to point out that the change would also give access to enterprise-grade features such as S/MIME, due to roll out over the coming months on the shiny new architecture.

The rollout, which kicked off yesterday via the Google and Apple app stores, doesn’t require much effort on the part of workers - aside from holding themselves back from actually flipping the switch for GCC mode in Outlook mobile. Doing so will probably break the thing. Microsoft therefore warns that the toggle should only be used when “moderate” security is required. The software giant will be stripping the switch from future versions anyhow.

Sadly, while Outlook is now a fully paid up member of the GCC club, there are still some features enjoyed by commercial users that hard-pressed government workers will not see. Calendar apps (like Wunderlist or Evernote) are a no-no, Bing location services don’t work and adding personal accounts is verboten. Thinking of using anything other than the GCC OneDrive for Business for storage? Fuggetaboutit.

The updates are further evidence of Microsoft’s determination to demonstrate that it would be the best, and most compliant, custodian for all that lovely JEDI moolah. Its efforts to date have, after all, seen it handsomely rewarded with government contracts.

US government workers allowed to actually do some work will need version 3.5.0 or higher of the iOS incarnation of Outlook, or at least version 3.0.0 of the Android incarnation. ®

* The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which authorises cloud service providers

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