Operating system software

BlackBerry 10 approved for US government

Warwick Ashford

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has announced that its yet-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10 platform has been awarded the US government’s FIPS 140-2 security certification.

The Federal Information Processing Standard certification could open the way for the use of BlackBerry smartphones in US government agencies concerned about data breaches, according to US reports.

"Achieving FIPS 140-2 certification means BlackBerry 10 is ready to meet the strict security requirements of government agencies and enterprises at launch," said Michael Brown, vice-president, security product management and research at RIM.

"What differentiates BlackBerry is that it integrates end-to-end security, and includes certified encryption algorithms for data at rest and data in transit. No other mobile solution has achieved the level of security accreditation that the BlackBerry solution has,” he said.

FIPS 140 is issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which helps to rate and certify devices for use by federal government agencies and regulated industries.

This is the first time a BlackBerry product has been FIPS certified ahead of launch, and may give embattled RIM a boost as it fights to claw back market share lost to rivals.

BlackBerry’s share of the government market dropped from 77% in 2009 to less than half by late 2011 as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform gained popularity.

In October, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced plans to switch from BlackBerrys to iPhones, and more recently UK government departments were given the go-ahead to use iPhones to send and receive sensitive emails as part of moves to broaden the number of approved public sector mobile devices beyond BlackBerrys.

A review by CESG, the UK equivalent of NIST in the US, concluded that iOS6, the latest operating system (OS) for iPhones and iPads, is now secure enough to handle restricted government information, providing departments build in additional security controls.

BlackBerry 10 is ready to meet the strict security requirements of government agencies and enterprises at launch

Michael Brown, RIM

CESG has warned that security on iO6 requires organisations to extend their network monitoring and security systems and relies on users correctly using the iPhone security features. Failure to follow any of these controls could compromise information security, the guidelines said.

"IDC expects the mobile enterprise security market to experience a high rate of growth from 2012 to 2016," said Stacy Crook, programme manager for mobile enterprise research at IDC.

"Maintaining the BlackBerry solution's reputation for security while introducing an enhanced user experience gives BlackBerry 10 the opportunity to be a highly competitive platform in the government, enterprise and consumer sectors,” he said.


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