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RIM extends security beyond enterprise

As more consumers bring their personal mobile devices into enterprises, Research In Motion is keen on enabling data security and educating users, company exec notes.
Written by Kevin Kwang on

SINGAPORE--With the lines between corporate and personal mobile phone devices increasingly blurring, Research In Motion (RIM) is adopting a two-pronged approach to tackle mobile security in and outside of the workplace, a company executive said.

Marcus Klische, BlackBerry security advisor at RIM, noted that in Germany where he is based or Europe in general, employees would request the company to provide them with mobile devices as part of becoming a mobile workforce, but this is not true in other parts of the world such as Asia or the United States.

In these regions, workers are more likely to bring their personal mobile phones into the workplace and IT staff will have to scramble to ensure these devices can access companies' backend systems without compromising system integrity, he said in an interview with ZDNet Asia on Monday.

Within the enterprise space, RIM is readying a tool called BlackBerry Balance that will allow handset owners to split their work and personal data stored on a single device, he said. The tool, explained Klische, will be able to create a "secure container" within one's personal BlackBerry device to enable access to the company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) system; at the same time, users can continue to carry out personal activities such as downloading and storing their personal photographs, browsing the Web and social networking.

BlackBerry Balance will be made available free in the next service update, which is expected "very soon", for all existing BES customers on the backend, according to the company. Device owners will also have to upgrade their operating systems to a new iteration of BlackBerry OS 6 once the tool is introduced, it added.

On the consumer end, RIM will also be making available its security expertise and best practices "as an enabler" for better mobile security habits, Klische revealed.

He said that the BlackBerry Protect tool, which is currently in open beta and available for download from the BlackBerry App World in certain geographic markets, brings to consumers some basic functions from the enterprise BES system. These functions include remote wipe, backup and change of passwords on the move. Parents would also be able to track their children through their device via GPS (global positioning system) if the feature is enabled, he added.

"Customers are starting to worry about securing their devices and [through the BlackBerry Balance and Protect tools] we hope to enable customers to protect the data on their mobile phones," the executive said.

Government scrutiny "nothing special"
When quizzed on the government regulatory scrutiny that RIM is currently facing in markets such as India and Indonesia, Klische said that these conversations with governments are "nothing special".

Last month, the Indian government renewed its threat to shut down BlackBerry services from operating in the country to pressure the company to hand over the keys needed to decrypt e-mail and other messages sent over the BES system, reported ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet UK. The Canadian company and the Indian government have been negotiating the issue since August 2010.

Playing down the situation, Klische said: "It's like driving a Porsche down the Autobahn (Germany's expressway) at a certain speed but having to drop down to another level when driving into Switzerland. It's just complying with different countries' laws."

He stressed that RIM continues to adopt a "uniform approach" in its dialogue with various governments. It identified the need to "educate government officials that there is nothing special or unique about RIM and its BES architecture", he added.

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