Boeing Partners with Blackberry to Produce Ultra Secure “Black” Smartphone

by Matt Klassen on December 24, 2014

At first glance U.S. government defence contractor Boeing’s first attempt at a secure military grade smartphone is really nothing to look at, yet one more plain looking cloak and dagger device aimed at keeping snooping eyes away from one’s private data. But where other such offerings have been geared towards keeping Big Brother at bay, Boeing’s effort is made specifically for government defence forces.

Dubbed the “Black,” (not to be confused with the similarly named Blackphone), the latest entry in the growing niche market of ultra secure smartphones will sport the industry’s best security features, including state-of-the-art encryption, layered security, seamless transitions between government and consumer networks, a modular expansion port so extra security and storage goodies can be added, and, oh ya, straight out of a James Bond movie, the phone self-destructs if anyone attempts to physically tamper with the device.

But you may be wondering what Boeing is doing making a smartphone, a company better known for producing consumer and military aircraft, and you wouldn’t be alone, as I’m sure Boeing is asking itself the very same question. To bring some mobile security credentials to the table we discovered this week that Boeing has brought Blackberry on board, not to create the devices (the Black runs Android), but to customize Blackberry’s BES-12 enterprise mobility management platform for deployment in “the ultra-secure mobile devices favored by the defense and security community,” explains Boeing spokesperson Andrew Lee.

Simply put, while the Black smartphone serves as yet another interesting addition in the growing secure smartphone market, the more interesting story here is the tantalizing glimpse it offers us regarding Blackberry’s new direction, away from supplying devices or operating systems and aimed instead towards offering mobility management tools that incorporate the company’s already security oriented mobility services.

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

It’s clear that if Blackberry is ever going to revive itself it will be through such enterprise and government channels, offering management services and secure features to phones designed by other people. In fact, despite utilizing Android for its Black smartphone, Boeing decided against using Android specific security tools, like Samsung’s Knox, simply because Blackberry has a strong security pedigree, while everything else on the market remains relatively untested.

Not only that, but the report really doesn’t indicate just how deeply Blackberry will be involved here, as Boeing likely needs significant assistance in producing its first smartphone, particularly one with such discerning defence oriented clientele in mind. BlackBerry potentially 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.

But even with Blackberry onboard, the Boeing Black smartphone may still offer far too many security vulnerabilities for any defense or security client’s peace of mind, for in order to truly secure Android, analysts note, Boeing is going to have to restrict the functionality and the device and its services (i.e. no apps). Not only that, but by offering modular storage ports Boeing is once again creating added security risk, making it easier for users to lose important data or, worse yet, have it stolen.

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