Friday, 24 July 2015 09:37

BlackBerry wants to secure everything in the enterprise

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"We've been doing a ton of work to really excel in the security of everything," BlackBerry CEO and executive chairman John Chen told the company's second annual security summit overnight.

BlackBerry has the vision and the ability to execute, he claimed.

This is not just about devices, Chen explained, but rather connecting things and connecting enterprises and communities. The company started with its own secure mobility and messaging platform, and "then we went on filling the gaps."

That was partly done through acquisitions, he said. In the last 12 months, BlackBerry has acquired secure voice specialist Secusmart, 'soft SIM' company Movirtu, mobile collaboration provider WatchDox, and most recently (though still to be completed) crisis communications platform provider AtHoc.

Despite Chen's reference to the "security of everything," BlackBerry is unashamedly concentrating on the enterprise market.

Vice president corporate strategy Jeff Holleran outlined some of the ways that the company can meet the needs of the financial services sector.

Such firms have a wide range of users requiring mobility - from janitors to traders to senior executives - and it is important to apply the right level of security for each.

BES12 supports practically all devices, and BlackBerry works with device manufacturers to build on whatever security they provide, so Android for Work, Samsung KNOX, and other schemes are supported.

This approach extends the firewall to the work side of mobile devices, leaving personal apps on the outer.

"BlackBerry acts as the bouncer in the sky," said Holleran, so "just the approved, certified, authenticated connections" reach the devices.

This approach works for even the most highly regulated industries, he said.

For secure communications, BBM Protected provides writer-to-reader security with full encryption. It's easy to use, simply by selecting protected mode, Holleran said, and even that happens automatically when both users are running BBM Protected.

As BBM Protected is federated, it works between organisations without requiring IT involvement each time two people want to communicate securely. And an audit and archive service is available where required for particular users (eg, analysts making stock predictions) in order to meet compliance rules.

Heath is another sector targeted by BlackBerry.

CSO David Gleidermacher said there are benefits from connecting everything in a smart hospital, but that results in a large attack surface. For example, there might be a way to use the administration network to get into the care network. BlackBerry aims to manage threats like that without adding to the complexity. After all, "Complexity is very difficult to manage."

One way of avoiding complexity is to use a small number of highly trusted providers, he said. BlackBerry offers mobile security and mobile productivity, and aims to support all mobile devices and IoT endpoints.

Furthermore, BlackBerry Network can act as "the security glue" connecting those diverse items. It is adequately scalable, Gleidermacher implied, pointing to the way it already processes 35PB per month.

When using multiple cloud services, BlackBerry Network provides access control, authentication, auditing and monitoring, and identity and single sign on. It also helps network administrators by using a single outbound port to connect an enterprise to the BlackBerry Network - traffic for other services such as those offered by Google is proxied through that port.

A data-centric approach to privacy suits the health sector's need for security with flexibility. With WatchDox, an x-ray can be sent to a practitioner at another hospital in the knowledge that the file is only useful to authorised parties.

Vice president product management Tim Choi said medical staff want to be able to access data where and when they need to, and that often means on personal devices.

There's also a growing need to collaborate, so CSOs can't say 'I'm going to block everything' or people will find workarounds that may be even less secure.

What makes WatchDox different is an understanding of the security concerns and meeting them by embedding the protection into the file, he said. The result combines usability and security.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to New York as a guest of BlackBerry.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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