BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY), showing itself to be the nine-lives mobile device maker, received a somewhat inadvertent boost when a British government security group disputed reports that it had rejected the BB 10 operating system as unsuitable for sensitive government work. And, one day later, that little piece of news was followed by a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) official denying a report that the agency had dumped BlackBerry 10-based devices in favor of purchasing 650,000 Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones and iPads.
Can't you just hear the "phew, those were close ones" coming from BlackBerry's executive suite?
Here’s the background on that one: In late February, four months after indicating it would broaden its reach beyond an exclusive contract for BlackBerry smartphones to other platforms, the DoD officially opened up its mobile procurement to Apple, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and additional qualified manufacturers.
Late last week, a new report surfaced indicating the DoD was set to scuttle all new BlackBerry procurement. But Air Force Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, in an interview with ComputerWorld, denied the report, (“It’s not from an official DoD source,” he said) while affirming BlackBerry’s viable positioning with the DoD. “We’re moving to multiple devices and that includes BlackBerry.”
Now, for the back story on the BlackBerry 10 security flap: The Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG), the U.K.’s national testing authority for information assurance, according to a report in the U.K.’s Guardian confirmed that BB 10 and Balance–the company’s BYOD and mobile device management (MDM) solution–failed its security measurements. The report has since been taken down from the publication’s website.
At the time, BlackBerry released a statement which read: “We have a long-established relationship with CESG and we remain the only mobile solution approved for use at ‘Restricted’ when configured in accordance with CESG guidelines. This level of approval only comes following a process which is rigorous and absolutely necessary given the highly confidential nature of the communications being transmitted.”
BlackBerry appeared to blame its alleged failure to receive CESG approval on a restructuring of the approval process, which, the company argued, altered the timeline for BB 10 to pass muster. It pointed to similar security nods it had gained from the U.S. government’s FIPS 140-2 certification and the German government’s procurement and information security office’s sanction as examples of BB 10’s suitability.
But, in somewhat of a surprise turnaround, the CESG said it hadn’t even evaluated the security of BlackBerry 10 devices, including the Z10. In a statement posted on its website, the CESG said it expected to provide its security opinion on BlackBerry later this summer.
"Discussions with BlackBerry are ongoing about the use of the BlackBerry 10 platform in government. We have not yet performed an evaluation of the security of the platform, but we expect to be issuing Platform Guidance in the summer. This will cover a number of platforms, including BlackBerry 10 (and the use of 'Balance'). We have a longstanding security partnership with BlackBerry and this gives us confidence that the BlackBerry 10 platform is likely to represent a viable solution for U.K. government."
Either way you slice it, by DoD or U.K. government security, BlackBerry’s got a lot of lives left to live.