BlackBerry Extends Respected Security Platform to iOS, Android

NEWS ANALYSIS: Secure Work Space provides a stable security environment by allowing Apple iOS and Android devices to access BlackBerry’s secure network infrastructure.

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BlackBerry is bringing its family jewels in the form of Secure Work Space to the fast-paced world of personal devices as a way to give IT managers the stability they need to protect company information while giving users the flexibility they are demanding to use their favorite devices at work.

In the process, the company is bringing BlackBerry's legendary uncrackable encryption to iOS and Android. Equally important, BlackBerry is bringing a suite of secure, containerized applications—including email, calendar, contacts and Web browsing—to those new devices.

As a result, BlackBerry is eliminating the need to maintain a separate virtual private network (VPN), which reduces costs while maintaining security. BlackBerry Senior Vice President for Security Scott Totzke described it to eWEEK as "the same secure connectivity with BlackBerry protocols" that's being used for existing BlackBerry devices. He said the process is also the same. "Encrypt and compress using BlackBerry transport protocols using the same encryption and same outbound port," he said.

"This is all managed by BlackBerry Enterprise Service [BES]," Totzke said. "There's no VPN to deploy. There are no additional connections, no extra holes in the firewall."

The network traffic looks the same to the firewall as any other BlackBerry traffic, according to Totzke, meaning that advanced firewalls and other security systems don't need to be updated.

He also noted that the BlackBerry encryption works the same as it does with BlackBerry devices. "It uses an AES VPN key that changes with every packet," he said, adding that BlackBerry treats every data packet as a separate VPN session and uses a new encryption key for each one.

The new apps that come with BlackBerry Secure Work Space are modified versions of apps that already exist for BlackBerry 10 and are used with BlackBerry Balance. There's the secure HTML5 browser that allows users to connect securely to existing Web services behind the corporate firewall, secure email for use with BES 10.1 and the corporate email service. The calendar and contact apps work with their corporate analogs, and all connect using the secure BlackBerry environment.

While it's possible to look at this as BlackBerry acknowledging that its devices aren't selling, in reality there's a lot more to it than that. One of the reasons that BlackBerry Enterprise Service is so widely used is because of its security. IT managers need to be able to deliver secure mobile applications regardless of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment.

Because BlackBerry's Enterprise Service is widely used, the move to BES 10.1, which is required to support the Secure Work Space, is easy to integrate, since it requires few if any changes to the existing BlackBerry environment. IT managers won't need to change their company's security infrastructure to work with the new capabilities.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...