GCHQ Recommends BlackBerry For Security

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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GCHQ advice prefers RIM devices over Apple’s iPhone and others for handling government data

GCHQ has published smartphone guidelines recommending, among other things, the use of RIM’s BlackBerry as the best way of keeping sensitive data safe.

The advice was published on Monday by the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance at GCHQ, known as CESG. It covers smartphones including the iPhone, Windows Phone 7, Nokia as well as RIM devices.

CESG published four documents covering secure deployment of mobile devices, including architectural issues such as reommended network layout, configuration advice, training issues and information on risks, according to the organisation.

the CESG report follows a recent notice from the European security advice body ENISA, warning of dangers from using smartphones, and a growing realisation of mobile security risks.

Security advice

The report on securing smartphones for remote working was produced in collaboration with the telecoms industry, CESG said.

It advises that RIM’s BlackBerry platform is the only smartphone system to have been formally evaluated by CESG, and to have been approved for classified material up to and including ‘restricted’-level access, CESG said.

The organisation pointed out that the platform has enterprise-oriented controls such as remote kill, email retention, guaranteed message delivery and encryption that not all other smartphones offer.

In June health secretary Simon Burns spoke of CESG’s preference for the BlackBerry in a written answer to Parliament.

“The only mobile telecoms or personal digital assistant devices that have been issued to ministers of the department are BlackBerries,” said Burns. Ministers in the health department have been issued with BlackBerries, and so will those in other government departments, he said.

Security paramount

Burns was answering a question from Labour MP Tom Watson, a former digital minister, who has been outspoken on issues including the Labour government’s Digital Economy Act, which contains measures on piracy which Watson opposes.

Blackberry devices have traditionally been seen as safe and enterprise-friendly, but there have been signs that the Apple iPhone is making inroads into corporate accounts, although it was originally designed for consumers. AT&T has reported that around 40 percent of iPhones are bought for business, and London-based Standard Chartered Bank is offering staff the option to have company iPhones.

What about tablets?

The report does not deal specifically with tablets, but there is a sustained effort to get organisations to use these also. Tablets a- tablets have been backed for business use by analysts Forrester and Gartner .

RIM is due to launch the Playbook tablet, and demonstrted it at Mobile World Congress. Meanwhile Apple has sold more than two million iPads and is pushing their use in the office.

In December CESG gave the government the green light to to use Microsoft Windows 7, arguing that it is the safest Microsoft operating system to date.