Air Force Drops Plans for iPad Flight Bags Over Security Concerns

US Air Force officials have scrapped plans to buy over 2,800 iPads for use by pilots as electronic flight bags. The agency hasn’t said why it reversed its decision to use iPads, although there is speculation that the planned use of software from a Russia-based developer was behind the move.

Air Force scraps big iPad purchaseAir Force scraps big iPad purchase

Air Force Special Operations halted its iPad purchase plans two days after Nextgov asked about the inclusion of GoodReader as one of the apps for managing and reading PDF documents on the tablet device. GoodReader is a popular iPhone and iPad app that handles file transfers to and from the devices and online servers, and also includes support for viewing several document formats such as PDF.

The apparent problem with including GoodReader on the Air Force’s list of approved apps is that the developer, Good.iware, is based in Moscow. Presumably the government sees that as a potential security risk.

Army smartphone project director Michael McCarthy has expressed concerns over using GoodReader, too, citing concerns over the integrity of the application supply chain. He also raised concerns over using iPads because of Apple’s reliance on China for building the hardware — an issue that he’d have to deal with for nearly every tablet device the military considers.

Captain Kristen Duncan, Air Force spokesperson, wouldn’t confirm GoodReader was behind the decision to back away from the iPad. She did, however, say the agency is still reviewing its options.

“We continue to look at each component of the [electronic flight bag] program to ensure we do the right thing for our airmen, don’t introduce unnecessary risk into operations and provide the best tools available to conduct the mission,” she said.

Yuri Selukoff, GoodReader’s developer, said the app doesn’t pose a security risk to the U.S. or any other country. “GoodReader doesn’t have any malicious code built into it,” he said. “Having said that, I am open to any security/penetration tests that anyone would be willing to perform on the app.”

He added, “Someone’s still living in 1970, aren’t they?”