After several federal agencies said they will stop using BlackBerry devices and switch to iPhones, Research In Motion took the unusual step today of announcing a tough security certification for BlackBerry 10 in advance of the device's launch next quarter.
This is the first time that a BlackBerry product has been certified as meeting the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) ahead of launch, RIM said in a statement.
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The certification means that U.S. government agencies around the globe will be able to deploy BlackBerry 10 smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 from the day of launch, set for sometime in the first quarter, RIM said. FIPS 140-2, in this case, recognizes the AES 256-bit encryption used by BlackBerry devices.
FIPS 140 certification is issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which certifies products for use by U.S. government agencies and regulated industries that handle sensitive information.
The FIPS certification is also supported by the Communications Security Establishment for the Canadian government. And BlackBerry security is also recognized by the Common Criteria Certification, a security clearance used by 26 countries, RIM noted.
"What differentiates BlackBerry is that it integrates end-to-end security and includes security encryption algorithms for data at rest and data in transit," said Michael Brown, vice president of security product management at RIM. "No other mobile solution has achieved the level of security accreditation that the BlackBerry solution has."
U.S. government agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced earlier this year that they planned to switch from BlackBerry devices to iPhones for their employees. In the case of ICE, the switch to iPhones affects more than 17,600 users.
While the focus at RIM is on the high level of security in its products, some U.S. government officials have said the iPhone, with a better touchscreen and Web browser, offers greater ease of use for workers than BlackBerry devices do.