BlackBerry Ltd. is stepping up its enterprise security game.
Today the Waterloo, Ont.-based Canadian tech icon, which in recent months has increased its efforts to pivot from device manufacturer to software provider, announced that it would be combining its multiple enterprise offerings into BlackBerry Secure, a mobile software-based security system aimed at businesses.
The new platform will incorporate several of the company’s prior cross-platform acquisitions in the enterprise security space, including Good Technology, WatchDox, AtHoc, and Encription, BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard told reporters during a Dec. 8 conference call – ideal for business users who need to reliably transmit confidential data between multiple sensitive endpoints.
“Market demand for security is really shifting from the network of computers to really a network of endpoints, and that is moving very quickly, and we know that traditional security software players are really scrambling to fill the gap,” Beard said. “At the same time, enterprises are quickly realizing that the need for 360-degree architecture – and again, today’s point products really aren’t addressing the central problem… Data breaches and cybersecurity threats.”
BlackBerry Secure, Beard said, is especially well-equipped to secure customer data because it’s platform-agnostic, compatible not only with current products BlackBerry products and third-party software such as Microsoft 365, but “future-proofed” to address upcoming capabilities such as messaging and analytics.
“We are no longer about the smartphone, but the smart in the phone – and in cars, and containers, and in medical devices and wearables,” Beard said.
Like most of the company’s software offerings, BlackBerry Secure is based on the company’s mobile software security platform, and is designed to help companies manage and protect both their mobile devices and connected things by securing communications for all messaging and file types.
In particular, the company is aiming at what it calls the “Enterprise of Things,” the collection of devices, computers, sensors, trackers, and other equipment that communicate with each other to enable smart product development, production, distribution, and marketing and sales.
The company hopes that BlackBerry Secure will allow it to enter new markets: for example, preventing hackers from penetrating devices and computers, providing intelligence for secure supply chain communications, ensure patient confidentiality in healthcare, and safeguarding assets in the financial industry.
Beard said that BlackBerry expects to release the product sometime during the first 10 days of January 2017, and while he couldn’t name customers for the time being, the platform is currently in beta and is likely to be adopted by “thousands” of its predecessors’ current enterprise users.
For more information on BlackBerry Secure, visit the company’s website.
BlackBerry is releasing its first smartphone since announcing it will no longer be designing and making its own smartphones, the Waterloo, Ont.-based firm confirmed on Tuesday.
The BlackBerry DTEK60 is a sequel and step up of the DTEK50 smartphone released in August. Similar to that phone, BlackBerry has taken a device design created by Alcatel parent company TCL Corp. and tweaked it. As with the DTEK50 and the Priv, this new device runs on BlackBerry’s security-hardened version of Android.
“The DTEK series is all about secure Android smartphones,” says Scott Wenger, vice-president of design and devices marketing at BlackBerry. “It’s for people that understand their need to protect themselves from security threats becoming greater all the time.”
VIDEO: IT World Canada CIO Jim Love takes a first look at the DTEK60
BlackBerry’s partnership with TCL on the DTEK devices is a signpost for how it will be working with partners to bring future BlackBerry hardware to market. As Wenger explains, future partnerships will see BlackBerry call on its partners to design, manufacture, and distribute the device as well.
“The main difference between what we’re doing now and the licencing strategy is who distributes,” he says. “Our licence model suggests we’re working with partners to distribute that hardware.”
BlackBerry has made efforts to secure any vulnerabilities in Android’s Linux kernel.
“We’ve looked for any issues and closed gaps wherever we find them,” he says. “Some of those things are public and some are not so public.”
For the DTEK60, BlackBerry will be using its traditional channels to distribute the device. For any future BlackBerry device, it will be up to partners to distribute the hardware. BlackBerry will focus on making its security-boosting software for the handsets, and possibly explore other options for BlackBerry-branded devices down the road.
So how exactly does it improve the security of Android? It starts with a modified version of Android OS, continues with a commitment to delivering security patches as soon as Google releases them, and ends with helping users understand what permissions their apps are using via the titular DTEK app that comes installed on the device.
BlackBerry uses a cryptographic key on the device to make sure the software hasn’t been rooted (i.e. replaced by something less secure), Wenger says. Encrypted data is enabled on the device by default and BlackBerry’s version of Android is more secure than other devices using Android in that way, he says, and the patch delivery commitment ensures they continue to be.
“Dedicated teams look at this day in and day out and fix things before they are publicly known,” he says. That puts to rest much of the zero-day vulnerability fears that many IT administrators have.
The DTEK60’s hardware specs are the same as we previously reported from leaks to several online inventory databases.
A hardware button on the side, dubbed the BlackBerry Convenience Key, can be mapped to any shortcut function of the user’s choice. Wenger opts to use his to turn on the device’s flashlight. But it could also launch an app, or begin a text message.
Unlike the DTEK50, this model does offer a fingerprint sensor, found on the back of the device just under the camera.
The BlackBerry DTEK60 will sell unlocked for $650.
The Canadian company has announced that BES 12 can now be installed and managed on the Azure platform. Furthermore, other solutions under the Good Secure Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) Suites product line will be introduced in the coming months, along with the AtHoc network crisis communication solution.
The smartphone maker, which has increasingly positioned itself as an EMM software company, announced the acquisition of Good Technology last September. It followed with the announcement that it had completed its acquisition of AtHoc that same month.
The company released its first Good Technology-based EMM solution late January.
BlackBerry Ltd. will exit the hardware business internally and leave development of future smartphones to its partners, according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen in a press release issued Wednesday morning.
Previously, Chen had said that if BlackBerry’s hardware business was not profitable within its current fiscal year, it would exit. The news that it will be out of the hardware game comes as BlackBerry releases its Q2 2017 financial earnings.
“The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners. This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital,” Chen says in the press release. “We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold.”
Fans of BlackBerry handsets can expect that in future, BlackBerry branded phones will be pushed to market in a similar fashion to the DTEK50 released this summer. Rather than develop the hardware for the device internally, BlackBerry chose to use a design created by TCL, the parent company of Alcatel. Also, the devices will continue to run on Android, meaning that BlackBerry is now branding phones where it neither designs the hardware or the OS being used.
What it does design is the custom security and productivity software that comes pre-loaded on the handsets. For example, the DTEK50 comes with its namesake DTEK software that gives the user transparency into how applications are using their permissions on a device, among other details.
BlackBerry reported a 31.8 per cent drop in year-over-year revenue for the second quarter, with a net loss of $372 million USD. But aside from one-time write-downs, BlackBerry says it broke even. Chen focused on an improvement to its software and services revenue, which was $156 million USD for the quarter.
To shine a bright light on BlackBerry’s future during a call with investors, Chen pointed to two different partnerships made in Indonesia this past quarter. One such partnership, made with BB Merah Putih, will see that company manufacturer and distribute BlackBerry-branded handsets in that country. BlackBerry’s new hardware strategy will be to make royalties on the sale of branded devices by partners, he says.
“We focus all of our efforts where we can provide differentiation, software and security. This focuses on all our strengths and is where the market is going,” Chen says. “Overall we believe this is a very viable business. We are seeing a lot of interest around the world for bringing a BlackBerry-branded device to market with the security only we can provide.”
Another bright spot on the balance sheet included shipping BlackBerry Radar, an asset tracking solution, and its first customer with logistics company Caravan Transport Group. The solution is an important part of BlackBerry’s Internet of Things (IoT) division.
Chen said on the call with investors that BlackBerry is seeing more interest in its fleet tracking solution. He framed it as superior to existing “legacy” systems on the market.
“We don’t have a lot of competition,” he says. “I just need to go in and hit the replacement cycle.”
Chen says BlackBerry is also in late stage discussions with prospective partners in China and India, Chen says. Those could look similar to the recent partnerships made in Indonesia.
BlackBerry’s transition from hardware to software will be complete within this fiscal year, Chen says.
BlackBerry this week announced it will be working with the U.S. government to both enhance the federal emergency mass notification framework and to be the security platform of choice within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
The company has officially signed two multi-million dollar security contract orders with the U.S. federal government. Blackberry has also achieved STIG (Security Technical Implementation Guide) approval, meaning the company’s security platform is certified for the highest level of requirements for regulated industries. The Waterloo-based mobile communications firm will provide its BlackBerry AtHoc crisis communications software, the multi-OS EMM platform BES12 and the latest BlackBerry OS 10.3.2 for smartphones for use at the U.S. DoD.
The DISA STIGs comprise a library of documents that illustrate how computing devices should be configured to maximize security, the company said. There are more than 400 STIGs at present, each describing how a specific application, operating system, network device or smartphone should be configured.
The BlackBerry AtHoc platform, for example, allows the U.S. Coast Guard to extend its emergency notification system and enable the National Capitol Region’s 50,000 employees to access alerts via computer or mobile device.
The latest approval from the DoD shows that the BlackBerry secure platform is designed to meet their priorities, said David Kleidermacher, Chief Security Officer at BlackBerry in a statement.
Last month, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said the company is making a shift away from its traditional handset business to focus on its software division, particularly the enterprise mobile management, enterprise, secure communications, and technology solutions markets, with an aim for 30 per cent growth.
While the announcement reflects this renewed strategy, it remains to be seen if BlackBerry can reassert itself within a tightening mobile communications space dominated by iOS and Android.
“We’re going to have to see a lot of these types of deals from them going forward to really get the sense that they are moving in the right direction,” IDC Corp. analyst Phil Hochmuth told Reuters.com.
BlackBerry Ltd. today announced that its latest Android OS-powered smartphone, the DTEK50, is now available for pre-order.
Touted as a secure Android mobile device, the midrange “all-touch” offering does away with a physical keyboard and represents the Waterloo-based vendor’s BlackBerry’s second smartphone powered by Android, following the PRIV.
The new device will come equipped with the Android Marshmallow 6.0 operating system; DTEK50 combines BlackBerry’s security and privacy features with “the full Android experience,” the company said, adding the product is suitable for enterprise fleet deployment.
Priced at $429.00, the device will be available in Canada via carriers including Rogers, Bell, Telus, Wind, Videotron and SaskTel.
“DTEK50 adds to BlackBerry’s lineup of secure smartphones, providing choices to our customers with different price points on both BlackBerry 10 and Android platforms,” said Ralph Pini, chief operating officer and general manager, devices, BlackBerry, in a statement.
Although BlackBerry Ltd. has retreated from designing and making its own hardware, it’s possible that BlackBerry-branded devices will be more effectively delivered to market than in recent years, according to Ralph Pini, the company’s chief operating officer and general manager for devices.
BlackBerry’s new hardware strategy is two-fold, Pini told sister publication ITBusiness.ca in an interview on Friday. One prong is to explore partnerships like the one with Indonesia’s BB Merah Putih, the country’s largest device manufacturer, to increase BlackBerry’s presence in areas of the world it hasn’t accessed previously. The second is to evolve existing partnerships to promote the BlackBerry brand on a global scale, serving regions like North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
While Pini said these partnerships aren’t likely to be made with tier-one OEMs, he says BlackBerry could be better off with tier-two or three OEMs than it has been in pushing its own devices to market.
“We haven’t had the capital to really promote these products … With our partners that will change,” he says. “We’re leveraging the scale of some of these partners around the globe… these partners are looking to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.”
After years of seeing its devices revenue decline and handset market share shrink, BlackBerry announced its exit from the hardware business on Wednesday. BlackBerry CEO John Chen said it will move to a royalty-based model where partners design and make BlackBerry-branded handsets, then take them to market.
Despite a strong effort with the Priv, an Android-based device that combined a touch screen with a security-boosted OS and an extendable physical keyboard, BlackBerry’s hardware revenues have continued to decline.
“When the Priv bounced, that was an indication there was a serious problem,” says Rob Enderle, an IT analyst based in Bend, Ore. “The Priv was by all measurements the phone they should have built to counter the iPhone threat, but it just came too late.”
As it has done with the Priv and the manufactured DTEK50 smartphones, BlackBerry’s version of Android features additional security software, a productivity suite around messaging and calendar tools, and a commitment to deliver patches as fast as Google releases them, to minimize the risk of zero-day threats.
BlackBerry has said for some time it’s looking for device manufacturers to partner with, but so far has found only one to go to market with: Alcatel, which makes the DTEK phones. DTEK is a test, Enderle says, a proof of concept. BlackBerry has also been working with Samsung “for some time,” he added, although no devices has emerged from that work. “Google could be a king maker” either buying or investing in BlackBerry for its device management and security prowess, Enderle said. However, he admits Google is less interested in devices today than into deep learning, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, and converging the Android and Chrome platforms.
“If BlackBerry through this strategy can get a big backer – a Samsung, a Google, HTC, Motorola – then this strategy will pay off. It’s certainly a better strategy than the one they were on.”
Meanwhile, he said, BlackBerry’s brand is a strong security solution on Android, and builds on the firm’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which is “one of the strongest platforms in managing phones.”
Pini says that BlackBerry will remain “very active” in helping its partners make BlackBerry devices, with a process built into agreements to ensure quality. BlackBerry will also send members of its own team to work on location with partners to help them meet the brand’s requirements.
“This will enable BlackBerry to bring back the brand of our devices and reenergize some of our legacy capabilities that we’re known for,” he says. “We’re now able to use that capital and apply it in a different way. The hardware design is becoming somewhat of a commodity, it’s pretty much all the same.”
The move also doesn’t mean the death of BlackBerry 10, Pini says. BlackBerry is currently working towards its 10.3.3 release for existing devices and the OS could even see new life in the future.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the software in another device,” he says. “But I couldn’t tell you when or where.”
In the near-term, BlackBerry will be focusing on transitioning from its current hardware approach, passing the torch to its partners. It plans to make announcements soon about partnerships that will see BlackBerry devices distributed globally.
As for the possible announcement of a sequel to the DTEK50, possibly branded as the DTEK60? “Stay tuned,” Pini says.
With notes from Howard Solomon
Building on its first Android foray with the Priv that launched last year, BlackBerry has announced what it says is the most secure Android phone today.
Via a webcast, the long-struggling Waterloo-based smartphone maker launched the DTEK50, which is aimed at both consumers and businesses who both want the variety of applications available from the Google ecosystem and value privacy. Alex Thurber, senior vice president of global device sales, said the launch of another Android device is about giving customers choice. BB10 is not going away; its software is slated for an update in the next few weeks. “We’re going to move forward with BB10.”
Users like their applications, said Thurber, which was the driver for BlackBerry to move into the Android world while bringing its legacy of security with it. Chief security officer David Kleidermacher noted that recent security surveys, including one from Verizon, have pointed to the fact that data breaches are growing uncontrollably and threats are coming after users and the mobile devices they hold. “Some people don’t understand the privacy implications and those that do don’t have a lot of confidence.”
A recent BlackBerry survey of 1,000 businesses found that 88 per cent of respondents don’t have confidence in mobile security, added Kleidermacher. “DTEK50 is about delivering a device people love, with security they wanted.”
The DTEK50 is also about getting BlackBerry’s device business profitable too, something CEO John Chen has said the company will do by September or otherwise it will leave that business. “John has been clear about profitability,” said Thurber, reiterating the company’s pledge to provide customers choice. “DTEK50 is priced to be a broadly adopted product.”
The new Android phone running Marshmallow with BlackBerry security is already available for pre-order in a number of countries, including Canada and the United States for US$290.00. The focus on security is also apparent in BlackBerry’s route to market for the DTEK50, which in addition to being sold through the usual channels such as carriers and mobile retailers, will also be made available through other channels such as security resellers.
Among the security features in the DTEK50 that BlackBerry highlighted:
Thurber said the DTEK50 is about bringing security to both CEOs and the average user, including his own kids. “I think security is something everyone should be aware of.” By coming in at a lower price point, it allows BlackBerry to expand that market by offering a device that’s BYOD friendly for individual users and enterprise-ready for “fleet” deployment.
Kleidermacher said DTEK50 builds on the legacy of security BlackBerry has built in sectors that are particularly security-conscious, such as banking, healthcare, and the legal field. “We’ve been cutting our teeth in the most demanding areas.” That legacy is being applied to the Android world across three key areas: the platform, which includes the hardware, firmware and software; communications; and the business itself.
In the long term, BlackBerry’s vision for security is to make sure that smartphones are secure enough to be a medical device – a means to program an insulin pump, for example – as well as other uses. “We still carry our wallets,” he said. “We should be able to trust our mobile phones for the highest value transactions.”
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