BlackBerry Ltd. may be facing some tough challenges in pushing its latest line of smart phones but for some security conscious IT managers say handsets developed by the Waterloo, Ont. company is still their device of choice.
IT managers and analysts agree that the strength of BlackBerry’s security comes from the BlackBerry Enterprise Security (BES) server software which is used by thousands of government and enterprise organizations around the world.
“As for alternatives to BlackBerry, there aren’t any,” said to Sandra Smith, an enterprise IT manager.
BES runs through the BlackBerry Network Operations Centre (NOC) and through 500 global carriers but is separated from popular operating systems ecosystems such as the ones working with iOS, Android and other mobile operating systems.
BES works because it is not part of “that ecosystem of other operating systems,” said Smith in an interview with online technology publication Computerworld.com.
This is also an advantage that BlackBerry has always trumpeted. This week the company announced that the Italian operations of global auditing firm KPMG purchased 3,500 BlackBerry 10 smart phones and is migrating to BES 10. Earlier this month, BlackBerry also reported that the North Atlantic Treaty organization has given security clearance for BlackBerry 10 smart phones and the BES 10 for NATO classified communications.
In August, BlackBerry announced that the United States Defense Information System Agency authorized support for 30,000 Z10 and Q10 smart phones and also authorized the use of BES 10.
BlackBerry says its smart phones are FIPS 140-2 compliant. FIPS stands for Federal Information Processing Standards. It is a requirement used to accredit cryptographic modules in both software and hardware. Many government agencies require that smart phones and their servers pass this certification.
There are, however, four levels of FIPS 140-2 certification. BlackBerry’s Web site does not indicate what level its products have achieved but a spokesperson for the company said its products has “end-to-end” FIPS 1400-2 certification.
Other phones have FIPS140-2 certification. Apple has a level 1 for its iOS 6. MobileIron and Mocana also have FIPS 140-2 certification.
BlackBerry is the “gold standard” for security according to Jack Gold analyst at J. Gold Associates. He however said that other products are coming close to it.
Gold said BlackBerry security is tops because of its handheld units and because its NOC is linked to BES servers. Even under a new owner, he said, the BlackBerry NOC will not disappear.
He said there is no threat of immediate shutdown of the NOC or BlackBerry infrastructure when the company changes hands so “there is no real need to migrate off BlackBerry.”
“BlackBerry hardware and its OS will survive because of BES,” Smith said. “We are still sitting here quietly paying as BES subscribers because we know and see the value.”