Boeing Picks BlackBerry to Brace Black’s Security

Boeing has enlisted BlackBerry to help bolster the security of its Black smartphone, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said Friday during the company’s earnings call.

“Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide secure mobile solutions for Android devices utilizing their BES-12 platform,” confirmed Boeing spokesperson Andrew Lee. “We see the need for end-to-end, layered security in the mobile ecosystem that supports our defense and security customers.”

BES 12 provides cross-platform enterprise mobile management with a scalable architecture that gives organizations strict control of devices, applications and data by person or by group, while letting users keep personal data private and separate from corporate data.

The two are customizing BES-12 for use by “the ultra-secure mobile devices favored by the defense and security community,” Lee told the E-Commerce Times.

Boeing Black’s Background

Boeing has described the Black as secure and modular. It runs Android, offers disk encryption, has a hardware crypto engine, a hardware root of trust and embedded secure components. Security and modularity are emphasized.

The Black smartphone also has trusted platform modules, secure boot and endless modularity capabilities, according to Boeing.

It supports dual SIM bands for LTE, WCDMA and GSM, and it will integrate seamlessly into existing mobile device management systems and virtual private networks.

Boeing earlier this year submitted two Black smartphones to the FCC for testing.

Samsung Goes to the School of Hard Knox

Samsung already offers the Knox enterprise mobile security solution on Android, and it has been approved by both the DoD and the NSA. While the BlackBerry 10 OS has won DoD approval, there’s no word of such approval for BES 12.

So why would Boeing go with BES 12 rather than Knox?

“Samsung and Knox don’t have a lot of track record,” suggested Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research.

While Knox “does have approvals, in my experience working with military programs and getting on the approved vendor list programs, you don’t have to have a customer to get on the list,” Orr told the E-Commerce Times. “You just have to go through all the steps, and then you get a record entry in a database saying it’s OK to buy this product for these roles.”

Further, Knox does not appear to have caught on. Samsung last year announced plans to bundle a forthcoming business suite from Lookout into Knox.

On the other hand, BlackBerry has been known for providing secure communication services, although its reputation in that regard has suffered of late, because various governments have forced it to provide them access to communications on its servers.

Being a cross-platform solution may have tipped the balance in favor of BlackBerry BES 12 — Knox is limited to Android.

BlackBerry Will Make Black Blacker

BlackBerry could be assisting Boeing in “almost everything from software development to hardware design, and even related services,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“Electronic solutions, from silicon to systems, are so complex that it’s almost impossible to build something without working with other parties,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Fundamentally, Boeing is doing the right thing,” Orr said. It “may have come to the realization that it’s not a device manufacturer and would need a trusted partner with that expertise, and with expertise in making secure devices.”

Further, Boeing, like other defense contractors, has “really good” relationships with clients, and the secure smartphone “is an extension of its goal of being able to provide a good product and good service,” Orr observed.

Security approval from a major U.S. federal agency “opens the door to other potential opportunities, domestically and internationally,” McGregor said.

This might just let John Chen turn BlackBerry around, as he promised to do.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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