​Global Citrix execs oversaw rewriting of mobile apps to secure Australian PROTECTED-level email tick

It took nine months of back-and-forth with the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), extensive code changes and a new approach to sensitive-application certification, but the world-first Australian approval of the Citrix Worx Mobile Apps – allowing them to carry PROTECTED-level government information – will set the pace for similar efforts in other countries, according to the company's government-market head.

Australia was chosen as the first country in the world to pursue certification of the secure mail, Web and file-sync tools, which are positioned as productivity tools alongside the company's ubiquitous remote-desktop and related tools.

Yet securing that leadership role wasn't without its challenges: the company's government-focused executives needed to complete an internal business case, Citrix government manager Mark Hazell told CSO Australia, “to justify the kind of expenditure necessary, to prove there's a market there and to get funds committed and programmers developing.”

Guided by the ASD, those developers ended up making a broad range of changes to the platform's code to ensure that not only were the apps secure – but that their interactions with the underlying mobile operating system were also secure.

“The ASD have realised that, due to the large number of apps that can be delivered to mobiles, that they need to look at the integrity of the OS” in evaluating security certifications,” Hazell explained.

“Their view is on getting an integrity level of the OS and having products interact with that OS correctly and securely. They gave us a bunch of guidelines, and we had to redo our application to sit against certain API calls, so as to interact with the OS securely and to the standard that they accept.”

The end result – certification of the platform to carry PROTECTED level government information – is seen as a feather in the cap of Citrix worldwide and has already led to “strong interest from certain government departments that have that requirement,” Hazell said, noting that numerous government departments already use Worx Mobile Apps to handle UNCLASSIFIED-level data.

The successful ASD certification has paved the way for similar work in the US, UK, Canada and similar markets that “all felt they were going to need this eventually,” senior product sales specialist for enterprise mobility Ian Curnow added.

“It opens up new markets and, with the likes of the Department of Defence [DoD], opens up a whole new area for us.”

ASD certification has long been recognised as a key hurdle to overcome in the fight to get new products into sensitive parts of the government market. Citrix's desktop products have achieved a string of certifications dating back more than 10 years, joining other vendors – such as Microsoft with the" target="_blank">Australian certification of its Azure cloud service, and Samsung with its US DoD-driven" target="_blank">Mobile Device Fundamentals Protection Profile (MDFPP) certification – in getting their key products certified for broad government usage.