BlackBerry has always touted its mobile devices as secure. But now it plans to make them “more secure” by acquiring a German company that specializes in voice encryption. BlackBerry will acquire Secusmart GmbH, which offers encryption systems to scramble voice calls, and also data communications. The company was silent about the details of the transaction, except to say it hinges on regulatory approvals.
The company also announced a plan to automatically scan Android apps selected for download by BlackBerry smartphone users. BlackBerry Guardian already combines automated and manual app analysis with Trend Micro’s Mobile App Reputation Service, and continuously monitors apps in the BlackBerry World online store. Starting with the release later this year of the square-shaped BlackBerry Passport “phablet,” Guardian will autoscan any Android app that the device downloads from any source. Suspicious apps are flagged, and the user can cancel the installation or go forward with it. [CrackBerry has a pre-release hands-on with the Passport.]
BlackBerry and Secusmart had already been dating. In 2013, they collaborated to create SecuSUITE for BlackBerry 10, which uses a special SD card – carrying Secusmart’s crypto engine and keystore — that slots into a BlackBerry 10 smartphone. SecuSUITE exploits the Balance feature in the BlackBerry 10 operating system: Balance creates, in effect, two containers that keep separate a user’s personal information and data, such as family photos and private email, and corporate email, apps, and their data. Using SecuSUITE, an IT group can ensure that all business data and communications, including VoIP calls and text messaging, are scrambled using 128-bit AES encryption.
One of the first customers for the new card was the German government. Earlier this year, Secusmart announced it was extending the SecuSUITE card to be used in desktop VoIP phone systems.
The BlackBerry press release on the acquisition was both terse and vague, giving few details of BlackBerry’s plan for Secusmart, if it has one. A quote attributed to Secusmart Managing Director Hans-Christoph Quelle said “We see significant opportunities to introduce Secusmart’s solutions to more of BlackBerry’s government and enterprise customers around the world.”