Insight by Verizon Frontline

In-house tech tools help the Secret Service carry out its mission

The U.S. Secret Service is a well-known federal agency with a mandate to protect the president, vice president and their families, as well as to investigate fin...

The U.S. Secret Service is a well-known federal agency with a mandate to protect the president, vice president and their families, as well as to investigate financial and cyber crimes.

In order to do that effectively, the agency must develop and utilize close partnerships with state and local agencies.

Law enforcement officials on the state and local levels are often the first responders to incidents that may involve the president or other designated individuals.

For example, if the president is visiting a city, local law enforcement will be responsible for securing the area around the event and managing any crowd control issues.

“If the president wants to go to Richmond, Virginia, then agents are going to work with law enforcement agencies in and around Richmond,” Kevin Nally, the chief information officer for the Secret Service, said during a Federal Insights discussion sponsored by Verizon Frontline.

By working closely with other agencies, the Secret Service can ensure that local law enforcement is trained and equipped to handle the unique security challenges that come with guarding the president or other high-level officials.

“They’ll do protection and work together in a coordinated effort, and that’s huge,” Nally said.

If the Secret Service is investigating a crime, state and local agencies may have information about individuals or organizations that are involved in illegal activities.

By sharing that information, state and local officials can help to ensure that crimes are effectively investigated and prosecuted.

“Our agents will work with local, state and other federal agencies so we can pick up the phone, communicate and say ‘hey, I need your help’ or ‘can you give me some advice?'” Nally said. “It’s really important.”

As they work together and share information, the various agencies can build strong working relationships that can help to improve overall security and public safety.

A truly prestigious agency

Just about every single person living in the U.S. has heard of the Secret Service.

It is a prestigious and critically important organization.

“It’s an honor to come here every day to work for and support the Secret Service,” Nally said. “It’s just an extremely professional and precise workforce.”

Before his current role, Nally spent more than 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He retired in 2015, but he quickly realized that he missed the fast-paced team environment that he thrived in while serving in the military.

“During my time in the Marines, I’d go home at night and I felt like I really provided value to something greater than myself,” Nally said.

He went looking for something else that gave him a comparable level of satisfaction.

“I really feel comfortable here at the Secret Service,” Nally said. “With my background being a Marine, I didn’t have to prove anything to anybody, and I was well-accepted and well-integrated.”

Secret Service ‘apps’ are different

Technological advancements have played a crucial role in helping the Secret Service carry out its mission.

In particular, improvements in communication tools have greatly enhanced the agency’s ability to react in the face of emergencies or potential threats.

One of the key ways that cutting-edge communication tools have helped the Secret Service is by providing real-time communication and information sharing capabilities.

The Secret Service now uses encrypted radios and other communication devices that enable agents to connect instantly with each other, regardless of their location.

That allows agents to quickly respond and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies in a way that was not possible before.

“We have 5G on our government-issued cell phones,” Nally said. “That has been beneficial in terms of speed.”

With the advent of new tools, such as advanced smartphones and encrypted messaging apps, agents can communicate more effectively and securely.

“When I first got here, we were using Windows phones, and that wasn’t providing much capability for the operators,” Nally explained.

The agency explored a number of smartphone options and ultimately ended up choosing the iPhone as the main device for Secret Service personnel.

Apps used by people in the Secret Service are not your average apps, however.

“Literally, we develop in-house apps within the Secret Service,” Nally said. “I’ll caveat that by saying we do have contractors that assist us, but they work for us.”

The apps go through a special cybersecurity process before employees are allowed to download them onto their personal devices or their government-issued iPhones.

“No one in the Secret Service can go the App Store and say ‘I like this app so I’m going to download it,’” Nally said. “You just can’t do that.”

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