BlackBerry expands its security smarts to the Internet of Things

BlackBerry's smartphone business is limping along but the company knows mobile device security. It plans to apply that expertise to billions of potential connected things.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor
Smart meters
Although BlackBerry once held and then lost the smartphone crown, the company still excels at mobile device management services. And it plans to build upon that strength by applying it to the growing market of non-traditional connected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.

The company announced a managed certificate service through its subsidiary Certicom on Tuesday to help secure a wide range of IoT devices. BlackBerry says that it already began issuing certificates through Certicom for a smart parking meter project in the UK; a region with more than 104 million such meters and home energy management devices.

Over the past seven years, Certicom has previously issued 60 million such certficates for devices like these that use the ZigBee Smart Energy specification, notes BlackBerry. The certificates help secure the data captured by the smart meters and energy management systems, using what Certicom calls Elliptic Curve Cryptography. Certicom notes that the managed certificate service was designed to scale up for supporting hundreds of millions of devices.

That's a key aspect, given that more and more everyday devices are gaining some type of connectivity. While there are roughly 2 billion smartphones in use today, the potential figure for other devices with some type of wireless radio for providing or collecting data is staggering. A Gartner forecast from November of 2014, for example, pegged the figure at 25 billion connected devices by 2020.

BlackBerry surely isn't the only company that wants to secure these devices, but it's smart to start building the effort now.

Mobile security is still a core competency for the company and regardless of how it's doing in the smartphone business, BlackBerry is still a trusted brand by many for its secure services and device management. It has to capitalize on that early in the IoT market before it faces a repeat of what happened in the smartphone market: An upstart that upends a core of BlackBerry's business.

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