UK government keeps RIM in play with BlackBerry 7 security rating

UK government keeps RIM in play with BlackBerry 7 security rating

Summary: RIM is holding on to the niche government market by certifying BlackBerry 7 as fit for government use, while Apple and Google have yet to step up to the mark.

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The U.K. government's electronic security group, CESG has rubber-stamped Research in Motion's newest operating system as fit for government and law enforcement use.

Google and Apple have yet to achieve the highly coveted status that RIM has been able to reach for two years in a row.

A plan to issue iPads to all members of Parliament (MPs) is set to go ahead in the coming weeks, though the devices cannot be used to read classified material.

Civil servants, ministers, secretaries of state and MPs alike, will be able to send and receive documents classified up to "RESTRICTED", which is reserved for material that might make the government look silly if leaked, but is unlikely to spark a war.

The CESG approval is good news for the BlackBerry maker, but it's not government machines or devices that get hacked.

It often falls down to human error, incompetence, or good old-fashioned plain stupidity, such as the time "TOP SECRET" documents were left by a senior civil servant on an outbound train to Surrey.

BlackBerry's get lost all the time. Because the devices are plugged into the security matrix, the devices are unreadable to those outside the walls of government. But more often than not it's the civil servants themselves who leak documents to the press, rather than a journalist stumbling on a governmental BlackBerry.

There are five levels of classification in the U.K. that relate directly to the level of vetting one receives, with "RESTRICTED" settling low down in fourth place.

From these classifications stems an interesting story --- something the Brits are keen for their American counterparts never to forget:

The U.K. and U.S. government aligned their security clearance levels during World War II. As the two strongest allies, the U.K.'s security classification of documents --- including the top "Most Confidential"  --- was misunderstood by the U.S. government and led to classified material finding its way to the hands of the U.S. media.

The U.K. was understandably furious and was forced to rename its security levels so the U.S. wouldn't accidentally hand over matters of national security to the press.

In the meantime, BlackBerry's still hold the government niche market. But others are catching up. Across the pond, Google and Apple have included government-grade encryption in their software and continue to seek certification. If Google and Apple pass the tests, it could lead to a mass BlackBerry exodus in the public sector.

Considering how low RIM is in market share rankings at the moment, it could signal the further demise of the smartphone maker.

Image credit: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia.

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Topics: Government US, Government, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, BlackBerry, Security

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4 comments
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  • This is the complete opposite of the evidence

    This article is the exact opposite of the evidence that was presented. Basically, the news is that the government has approved Blackberry phones for secure usage. This is clearly a positive thing for Blackberry. Maybe not enough to turn them around, but a positive none-the-less.

    But the author instead wanders off into speculation about how Blackberry will soon be no more. Sure, Blackberry has problems. But the news is that one major organization (the government) has approved them for use.

    This article takes a positive fact about a company and uses it to argue that Blackberry is a brand in demise. Please! Stick to the facts!
    chugalug
  • Google & Encryption don't match

    Please Google does not have any security to speak of, their OS and platform is a cess pool and fragmented beyond belief at this point. I have not met ONE company willing to support it beyond basic email access (Good Technology which provides their own security).

    Apple has made progress but hardly any companies are doing corporate liable iOS. Having just been at Blackberry World, spoke with pretty much every major fortune 500 company and not one has moved away from Blackberry as the corporate standard. Sure some are toying with iOS due to demand and like us they slap security around it to satisfy demand but all these companies have a sizable investment in RIM.

    If RIM can deliver on what they previewed (BB10) they will have a very nice platform that matches (exceeds) every other mobile OS platform, can be managed and secured. Everyone else is 90% meeting consumer needs while RIM has tried to be 50/50 enterprise / consumer. If they get the consumer side sorted out - watch out.
    MobileAdmin
    • Google and encryption does Match

      Cryptoexpress.com matches everything that RIM offers on Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile and RIM Smart Phones. BYOD is no longer a problem for CIOs.
      1000010810
  • Hmmmmm

    As mentioned previously, RIM always gets this "award" because it always been a secure mobile OS. Compared to Android which has malware growing out of it. Not surprised about iOS since Apple has never been known to have any secure OS.

    It's not surprising that RIM got it, but it still won't help in the long term. When you see attendees at a RIM seminar using a non-RIM phone, it's not good. On the other hand, i attended another seminar recently [not related to mobile phones] and masybe half were Blackberries.

    Maybe until now with their new configuration tool, the iPhone hasn't made any splash into the enterprise. It still is primarily a consumer phone, just like the iPad and the laptops are primarily for consumers.
    Gisabun