Reports BB10 failed government security tests ‘false and misleading’, says BlackBerry

BlackBerry has denied claims made by the Guardian that its latest BB10 software has been rejected by the government as not being secure enough for essential work, saying that the reports are ‘false and misleading’.

The previous BlackBerry version 7.1 was cleared by the UK’s Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) in December last year for government work up to a ‘Restricted’ level – two levels below ‘Secret’.

However, the Guardian has said that tests on BB10 and the BlackBerry Balance software, which intends to separate corporate and personal accounts, allowing data to not be copied between the two, have failed the same security requirements.

If true, the news would come as a massive blow to BlackBerry, which is hoping that the new operating system will steal back some of the market share that has been won over by Android and Apple in recent years. BlackBerry is also a major supplier of handsets to the public sector and a loss of government contracts would likely be a blow to its UK revenues.

However, BlackBerry told Computerworld UK that the claims are false and that a change in the CESG’s approval process has meant that the timeline for approval has been lengthened.

It also pointed to similar security certification in the US and Germany as an indication of the quality of its software.

“Media reports alleging that BlackBerry 10 has been ‘rejected’ for U.K. government use are both false and misleading. BlackBerry has a long-established relationship with CESG and we remain the only mobile solution approved for use at 'Restricted' when configured in accordance with CESG guidelines,” said a spokeswoman for BlackBerry.

“This level of approval only comes following a process which is rigorous and absolutely necessary given the highly confidential nature of the communications being transmitted. The current re-structuring of this approval process, due to the Government Protective Marking Scheme review and the new CESG Commercial Product Assurance scheme has an impact on the timeline for BlackBerry 10 to receive a similar level of approval.”

She added: “The US government’s FIPS 140-2 certification of BlackBerry 10 and the selection of BlackBerry 10 by the German Procurement Office and Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) underline how our new platform continues to set the standard for government communications. We are continuing to work closely with CESG on the approval of BlackBerry 10 and we’re confident that BlackBerry 10 will only strengthen our position as the mobile solution of choice for the U.K. government.”

Blackberry 10 launched at the end of Januarywith two handsets running the operating system. The new operating system brings the BlackBerry platform a desperately needed update and helps put it on the same functional level as Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.

But after falling behind for a couple of years, the big question is whether the company can catch up.

UPDATE: CESG has since contacted Computerworld UK and clarified that the BB10 is yet to be tested.

A spokesperson said: "Discussions with BlackBerry are ongoing about the use of BlackBerry 10 in Government. We have not yet performed a security evaluation of that platform, but we expect to be issuing Platform Guidance in the summer, this will cover a number of platforms including BlackBerry 10 (and using Balance)."

"We have a strong security partnership with BlackBerry and this gives us confidence that BlackBerry 10 is likely to represent a viable solution for UK Government."

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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