Mobility

BlackBerry security could be key to their enterprise mobility resurgence

BlackBerry Z10 security could be a key to the device's resurgence, helping BlackBerry regain its status as an enterprise mobility leader.

Beyond reviewing the BlackBerry Z10 for enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) use cases, I wanted to spend some of my time with the BlackBerry loaner drilling down into the security features.

Mobile security was always a hallmark of BlackBerry devices inside the U.S. federal government and corporations. However, BlackBerry's security reputation became overshadowed as the iPhone and Android phones began to take center stage and corporations put more attention towards mobile apps, Mobile Device Management (MDM), and secure authentication solutions that maintained employee device security inside the enterprise.

BlackBerry Z10 security features

BlackBerry security once helped the device earn its place within commercial and federal government enterprises. Here are some of the security features that can help drive BlackBerry's enterprise mobility resurgence.

BlackBerry Protect

When I examine the onboard security features of a mobile device, I try to take a holistic approach, asking questions about how the security might impact corporate, BYOD, or COPE devices. BlackBerry Protect is a security feature that strikes a critical balance of usability and security, because it's easy to enable by selecting BlackBerry Protect under Settings. With Blackberry Protect enabled, you can lock, wipe, beep, or locate your missing device remotely. Figure A shows the BlackBerry Protect controls: Figure A

BlackBerry Protect security feature.

Personal and Work spaces

The onboard Personal and Work Spaces feature is available to BlackBerry Z10 users when BlackBerry Enterprise Server is running on the back end. This is BlackBerry's take on secure containers made standard by many MDM solutions.

While I didn't have access to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server when writing either of my Z10 posts, I still have to say that if BlackBerry can streamline and master an out-of-the-box (let alone touch-free) experience with Personal and Work Spaces, it can give enterprises another reason to return to the BlackBerry.

BlackBerry Messenger

I'm including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) as part of the device's security. BBM on the BlackBerry Z10 offers encrypted instant messaging (IM) to other BBM-enabled devices. In previous versions, this played a major role in BlackBerry adoption inside the enterprise.

Because BlackBerry is planning to open up BBM to iOS and Android devices, the BlackBerry Z10 and other new BlackBerry devices could potentially benefit from the widening user base, just like Apple hardware did when Apple offered iTunes to Windows users.

Media card encryption

As a long time iPhone user, I'm separated from the concerns of media cards, so I took a keen interest in the security that the BlackBerry Z10 has onboard for media cards. Media card encryption is available under Security and Privacy. When you encrypt a media card, you can only use it in the device where you encrypted it.

You can brick an encrypted media card if you wipe a BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry recommends turning off media card encryption before wiping a device. This is important and should be documented as part of any mobile security or other device training. It's easy to overlook this fact, since wiping any mobile device doesn't normally happen under the best circumstances.

Security and Privacy features

The BlackBerry Z10 has very accessible security and privacy features found under Settings. From the Security and Privacy features, you can perform the following:

  • Set application permissions
  • Set a device password
  • Encrypt personal files and data on the device
  • Set diagnostics to control the collection of data from the device
  • Select security wipe to delete all the data and downloaded apps from the device
  • Manage public and private keys through the use of certificates
These are enterprise-grade security and privacy features right out-of-the-box. Granted, I'm an iPhone guy and will be the first to say that these onboard tools rival (and in some cases exceed) what I'm used to on my iPhone 5. Figure B shows the Security and Privacy features: Figure B

Security and Privacy features on the BlackBerry Z10.

Current state of BlackBerry Z10 security

When I was writing this post, BlackBerry issued a critical security warning for Z10 phones. While this was certainly a disappointing development for a device and a company seeking enterprise mobility resurgence, these events happen. The way BlackBerry handles the security warning and manages the follow through with a solution that befits the mobile device is either going to contribute to a potential BlackBerry resurgence or foster the lingering doubts that came about when Android and iOS overtook the one-time enterprise mobility leader.

Final thoughts

BlackBerry security is alive and well -- in fact, it's somewhat improved, based on my previous BlackBerry experience. However, after spending some time with a BlackBerry loaner, I'm still less concerned about BlackBerry as a technology platform and OS than about some of the choices that the BlackBerry executive team has made in recent years. After all, this is not the first time that company management has held back the potential of a technology.

What are your thoughts about BlackBerry security and the resurgence of BlackBerry in the enterprise? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

6 comments
bigntallmike
bigntallmike

Android has built-in location features, fully encrypted storage support and multi-user support (not just home and office, but home, office, children, friends ...)

Blackberry should change their slogan to "too little, too late."

ranamgtrust
ranamgtrust

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ranamgtrust
ranamgtrust

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Gisabun
Gisabun

If anything BB security is dropping. It was announced [this past week] that the overnment of India can now intercept all communication from a BB [except corporated devices]. I can't see how this will help BB. Of course now they have BB, the overnment will go after Apple. Expect this to open the flood gates [if not already] for other questionable governments to do the same.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

What is is the ability of any others to intercept and act on the communications. The Government tends to be the one who owns the system that you are using with the devices and as such has ultimate control. :0 Col