BlackBerry 10 accused of insufficient safety for British government [Update: BB denies]

Mar 20, 2013
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BlackBerry has high hopes for its latest operating system and the smartphones running it. However, BlackBerry 10 has been dealt a blow by the British government. Reports indicate that the British government has deemed the new BlackBerry 10 software not secure enough for essential government work.

Previous versions of the BlackBerry operating system were only allowed to be used by the British government for classifications up to "Restricted," which is two levels below "Secret." The Guardian reports that BlackBerry 10 and the company's BlackBerry Balance software have failed to meet the security requirements that BlackBerry 7.1 met. BlackBerry Balance is software that is supposed to separate work and personal accounts preventing any copying of data between the accounts.

BlackBerry has confirmed that its latest software hasn't been passed by the UK Communications-Electronics Security Group. The company will apparently be offering revised software with the goal passing the certification, but a date when that software will be offered is unknown. This news will come as a significant blow to BlackBerry within the UK because the company had and much of its hope of turning around its ailing fortunes pinned to BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 and q10 smartphones running the new software.

BlackBerry was hoping to win large and lucrative business contracts with its new devices, but at least for now in the UK that won't happen. The Guardian reports that the British government and NHS are two of the library's biggest clients in the UK numbering tens of thousands of users.

Update: BlackBerry has given us the following statement, arguing that the situation is not one of rejection but of a time impact in restructuring approvals processes:

"Media reports alleging that BlackBerry 10 has been ‘rejected’ for U.K. government use are both false and misleading. BlackBerry has 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. The current re-structuring of this approval process, due to the Government Protective Marking Scheme review and the new CESG Commercial Product Assurance scheme has an impact on the timeline for BlackBerry 10 to receive a similar level of approval. The U.S. government’s FIPS 140-2 certification of BlackBerry 10 and the selection of BlackBerry 10 by the German Procurement Office and Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) underline how our new platform continues to set the standard for government communications. We are continuing to work closely with CESG on the approval of BlackBerry 10 and we’re confident that BlackBerry 10 will only strengthen our position as the mobile solution of choice for the U.K. government."

Update 2: A CESG spokesperson gave the following statement:

"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 that 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 long standing security partnership with BlackBerry and this gives us confidence that the BlackBerry 10 platform is likely to represent a viable solution for UK Government."

Update 3: Looks like BlackBerry is bringing out the whole UK government to pipe up on its behalf. A Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spokesperson gave the following statement (broadly the same as CESG's):

"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 that 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 long standing security partnership with BlackBerry and this gives us confidence that the BlackBerry 10 platform is likely to represent a viable solution for UK Government."

[via Guardian]


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