Given the general rise in ransomware and cyberattacks and threats across various industries and sectors, users expect rugged devices to offer more security layers and options than a consumer-grade tablet or notebook would deliver. And given the growing threat of cyberspace as a theater of war, that goes double for military and defense applications.
However, when parsing out a rugged device’s security features, vendors tend to shout out their consumer-grade features and “above and beyond” features with equal volume. This can sometimes make it difficult to tell which attributes, and therefore which models, are which. The short version is that consumer-grade device security measures typically revolve around the CPU and the operating system (OS). In contrast, rugged devices extend them to other elements and perhaps many other elements when military security is involved.
Multi-factor (i.e., multi-step) authentication is now a fundamental security standard, increasingly mandated in government-use devices. All current Windows devices support it, typically involving a password, facial recognition, or fingerprint scan. However, military-grade devices are often configurable for RFID or smart card scanning.
Data Security Features
All current Windows devices also feature Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0. TPM is a dedicated [often physical] cryptographic processor on the motherboard used as a storage drive and for authentication data encryption. On the other hand, military-grade devices are moving to toolless removal/installation of the data storage drives. This adds an extra layer of security for the data when a device is not in use. It also enables easy, rapid data transfer between devices. This approach helps to prevent an abandoned device from being used as a cyberweapon.
Physical Security Features
An example of a physical security feature is a Kensington lock slot that prevents thieves from stealing a notebook. This feature is ideal for military applications. The microphone and webcam may also need to be removable. The webcam will also need a privacy shutter if it is not removable.
“Look Deeper” Features
Product specifications often address the above features, but a webpage or product brochure might not include additional criteria. For example, such features might consist of Secret Internet Protocol Router/Non-Classified Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) capability, compliance with Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), theft protection in the BIOS controls and device setting lockout, optical drive security, Data At Rest (DAR) security, and additional chip/OS manufacturer security safeguards.
These requirements vary by nation, branch of service, and jurisdiction and may involve local third-party cooperation. You might not see such features mentioned in online materials from the vendor as the content targets a non-specific global audience. Otherwise, ask the vendor if you consider a rugged tablet or laptop that provides military-grade security and other critical capabilities.