BlackBerry Releases BBM Protected, Chat App for Regulated Industries

BlackBerry's BBM Protected lets users in regulated industries securely instant message with people outside their organizations.

BlackBerry BBM

BlackBerry has launched BBM Protected, the first solution to come out of the eBBM Suite it introduced at Mobile World Congress in February.

The suite is a family of services and products that pairs BlackBerry's BBM messaging products—its most popular offerings—with enterprise-grade security features.

BBM Protected is a service that gives users in regulated industries more freedom, and the potential for greater efficiency, by enabling them to message with other BBM Protected users outside their organizations.

Users in regulated industries like government and finance are "caught between a rock and a hard place today, when it comes to secure IT," BlackBerry's Jeff Gadway said in a June 16 blog post. "Many consumer IM apps don't meet the security needs of IT, while the enterprise IM apps deployed by IT leave end-users seeking more utility and a better mobile experience."

BBM Protected combines one of the world's most-loved ways to chat (when BlackBerry released BBM for iOS, it became a top-five app in more than 50 countries), with technology that protects data when it's at rest on the device and in transit.

"Employees can chat securely with BBM Protected users at other companies, too—they do not need to be on the same BES server and no federation between servers is required," BlackBerry said in a June 16 statement.

It's the only secure instant messaging solution that uses a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic library and symmetric encryption keys for what BlackBerry calls an "unrivaled level of trust in BBM message encryption."

The first time that a chat is initiated between two Protected users, they're required to share a secret passphrase in order to generate an encrypted key to secure their chat. One user can share the phrase with the other via photo, email, text or in person, and it only needs to be entered the first time a pair chats. (BlackBerry showed an example in which the password was "SUPER MARIO."

The release of BBM Protected is available for BlackBerry devices running BBOS 6.0 or later versions, or BlackBerry 10 devices in Regulated mode. No software update is required; it can be added as an IT policy through a company's BES console.

A later rollout will extend BBM Protected to BlackBerry 10 smartphones in Work/Personal Balance mode, as well as to organizations with iPhones and Android devices.

Later this year, BlackBerry will begin offering the BlackBerry Classic, a flagship smartphone that will bring back some of the physical features of older models that long-time users say they miss.

Deeper into the calendar, BlackBerry will also open an Innovation Center in Washington, D.C., that will put it closer to many of its users in government. President Obama—the first U.S. president to be allowed a smartphone—is perhaps the company's most well-known user. Though earlier this year the Department of Defense confirmed that the White House was piloting various types of devices.

BlackBerry told eWEEK at the time, "The U.S. government continues to choose BlackBerry for its unmatched security and cost effectiveness."

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