April 04, 2013, 4:01 PM — The recent release of the BlackBerry 10 operating system sets the stage for a security evolution as well, according to Alex Manea, manager of security services at BlackBerry.
For one thing, the BlackBerry 10 OS is distinct from any previous BlackBerry OS in that it provides a way to separate out personal applications from corporate-designated ones by using a capability built directly into the OS called Balance. Manea says this "partitions the phone into two spaces, a workspace 100% controlled by IT, which can delete it without interfering in the personal side" and represents a way that businesses can support the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend by allowing employees their personal space on BlackBerry, too.
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And although this BlackBerry Balance dual-partition capability for BYOD is not available for Google Android or Apple iOS devices, BlackBerry management can support these non-BlackBerry devices, says Manea, adding it involves adding a specialized app to iOS and Android devices to do that. Through use of the server-based BlackBerry Device Service software for BlackBerry 10, businesses can manage Android and iOS devices as well, though not Microsoft Windows Mobile, he says. Management capabilities include features such as lock, track and wipe.
BlackBerry is also working on what's known as a "containerization" type of technology for applications that could also be used for iOS and Android that would allow IT managers to place something akin to a container wrap around an app based on IT-based policy decisions.
BlackBerry 10 is also supporting data at rest and in transit through encryption, with the ability to swap out encryption algorithms.
But in addition to new features like Balance, the advent of the BlackBerry 10 OS has set the stage at BlackBerry to evolve the basic security strategy related to present and future smartphones and tablets. For example, BlackBerry recently established a partnership with security firm Trend Micro to assist in vetting apps against malware thorough the cloud-based Trend Micro Mobile Application Reputation Service. And in another partnership with Germany-based Secusmart GmbH, BlackBerry is creating a specialized encrypted mobile voice capability for BlackBerry that would be used by the German government there.
These kinds of projects are widening the perspective on what BlackBerry might undertake in the future as pertains to the BlackBerry 10 OS as a platform, including potentially coming up with a set of security APIs that third-party vendors could build to, such as the kind of anti-malware hooks which they don't have today. There has historically been very little malware aimed at BlackBerry because of its core design being highly virus-resistant, but it is growing.
Manea says as BlackBerry considers what it might undertake in terms of growing its security capabilities with BlackBerry 10, it's evident that the firm is more open than ever before to the idea of exploring projects, partnerships and possibilities.
Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email: email@example.com.
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