How BlackBerry holds onto government users

Jun 7

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6/7/2012 7:18 AM  RssIcon

By Henry Kenyon

Despite competition nibbling away at its market share, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion continues to dominate a major chunk of the federal mobile device market, particularly because of BlackBerry's built-in security features. But to remain relevant in a quickly changing market, the company is also deploying its own multiplatform management services.

RIM has encountered increased pressure from Android and Apple-based platforms in recent years, but what distinguishes BlackBerry devices from the competition is their inherent security — a key factor in government, said Scott Totzke, RIM's senior vice president for BlackBerry security, in an interview with GCN.

He said RIM has invested in protecting customer data from the beginning. “It’s been a tenet since the day we started,” he said.

RIM is involved in mobile device trends, such as bring-your-own-device (to-work) efforts. The company has been a strong advocate for standardization and certification, two things that help the BYOD process, Totzke said. He added that standardization and formal certifications for consumer and federal markets is an important issue that is also good for industry.

One of the challenges facing BYOD programs is both the large number of vendors and the inconsistent level of mobile security across all of the vendors. Totzke is concerned that in the absence of a firm set of standards “security becomes a race to the bottom.” This lowest-common-denominator approach is a major challenge in federal markets, he said.

Besides security, there are governance and legal issues that federal BYOD programs must consider. For example, what if an organization needs to seize a user’s personal device for an internal investigation? “The policy and governance models we have from a legal standpoint are not keeping pace with the rapid change of technology,” he said.

RIM also is joining the rest of the mobile industry in the move toward cross-platform, multidevice environments with the release of its Mobile Fusion device-management software. But there are aspects of multi-platform operation that worry Totzke. One major issue is the potential for cross-platform vulnerability as the industry moves toward operating systems and browsers based on open-source software such as WebKit.
Previously, Totzke said, vendors had very distinct architectures, which meant that attacks were focused on those specific platforms. Because mobile device-makers are using similar systems, they are beginning to coordinate product releases to match software upgrades.

Source: Washington Technology (

Tags: Blackberry
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