More than a decade ago, technology giant Apple began telling its smartphone customers that if something was worth doing, “There’s an app for that.”
Starting now, the same can be said of fighting terrorism.
The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Monday launched its aCTknowledge mobile app, ready for download from the Apple app store and from the NCTC website.
“The app is a one stop shop to get unclassified counterterrorism information,” a NCTC official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the center’s foray into mobile apps.
Officials said a version should also be available in the coming months from Google Play, and that the information will also be available in a desktop version.
But while the app is public, access to the full suite of features is limited to counterterrorism professionals.
NCTC officials say the initial rollout is limited to officials with the U.S. federal government and in the U.S. military. State and local counterterrorism officials will also be getting access in the near future.
“This is a tremendous evolution of our information sharing efforts,” a NCTC expert who helped develop the aCTknowledge app told reporters.
“We’re moving from a weekly, regularized information sharing effort (via email) to a daily, near real time effort,” the expert said. “Our ability to send push notifications to partners using the app is really going to change the community, in general, because we’ll be able to immediately level-set everyone’s understanding of a counterterrorism event as it occurs.”
Like other apps, NCTC’s aCTknowledge will enable users to get notifications, search for information and follow for updates on specific terms or topics.
NCTC says the nature of the new mobile app will also allow it to see what type of information its various government partners are looking for, and make sure that data or training is made available.
Although the information being shared on the app is unclassified, officials are taking precautions to protect the systems from hackers and others who might try to misuse it.
“You’re required to use your official government email address to register,” a second NCTC expert said, speaking like the other on the condition of anonymity. “And then we have an established vetting criteria to make sure that applicants have a validated need to know.”
Officials say many of the app’s features were designed with the help of state and local first responders, including police and fire departments from across the United States.
“With the release of aCTknowledge, NCTC is delivering on our mission to innovate how we share intelligence products with our partners,” NCTC Director Christy Abizaid said in a statement late Monday. “The app empowers its users with the information they need to protect their communities from potential threats.”