BlackBerry Spy-Proofs Samsung Tablets With IBM Software

Is BlackBerry's $2,360 Super Secure Tablet Unhackable?

BlackBerry Ltd. introduced a modified Samsung Electronics Co. tablet computer that lets government and corporate users access consumer applications such as YouTube and WhatsApp while keeping confidential work-related information away from spies and crooks.

The 2,250-euro ($2,360) SecuTABLET will be available by the third quarter, Hans-Christoph Quelle, head of BlackBerry’s Secusmart unit, said in an interview Sunday. More than 10,000 units will be shipped annually in Germany by next year, with a higher number sold by International Business Machines Corp., which is handling sales to companies worldwide, he said.

The SecuTABLET combines Samsung Electronics Co.’s Tab S 10.5 with Secusmart’s microSD card and IBM software to wrap applications that hold sensitive data into a virtual container where they can’t be harmed by malware. Germany’s computer-security watchdog is evaluating the device for classified government communication and will probably give its approval before the end of the year, Quelle said.

“For many of the tasks that officials and executives need to carry out, a phone just isn’t enough -- they want a tablet,” Quelle said at the CeBIT technology conference in Hanover, Germany. “The most important thing is that we combine security with usability. We don’t want to take the fun things away from people.”

BlackBerry acquired Secusmart last year in an effort to win more business from customers demanding rigorous data security. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, which sold few of its own 2011 Playbook tablets, is shifting from making hardware to building security components and software into competitors’ devices as the frequency of cyber attacks mounts.

Clinton’s E-mails

BlackBerry shares slipped 0.8 percent to $9.73 at 10:40 a.m. in New York on Monday. IBM’s stock was up 1 percent to $155.89.

The tablet integrates BlackBerry’s technology with one of its main competitors in the mobile-device market. When IBM and Apple Inc. signed a deal to collaborate on mobile business applications last July, BlackBerry’s stock dropped 12 percent.

The tension between maintaining personal privacy while still letting employers secure phones has been in the spotlight recently with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a single device and a home-based server for both her government work and private communications.

A poll by IBM showed that 63 percent of all officials need access to specific software such as for finances and controlling on their mobile devices. However, many government officials and executives have resisted the use of so-called crypto phones as they tend to limit what users can do with them.

Snooping Software

For instance, making a secure call requires both sides to have the necessary technology installed, and many programs aren’t allowed to run on them because they may pose a point of entry for viruses or snooping software. The devices also tend to be more expensive than off-the-shelf phones.

Secusmart tries to make its devices safe and useful at the same time by installing a small chipcard, which encrypts voice and data and cannot be corrupted by malware targeting the operating system. The company has shipped BlackBerry 10 devices modified in such a way to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her government.

Samsung has begun emphasizing its enterprise products as it lost its lead in the smartphone market to Apple in the fourth quarter. Its Galaxy S6 phone will ship with the Knox software, which combines improved user authentication and encryption to protect the device from attacks.

“We do recognize that people actually have a personal life and a business life,” said Lee Epting, head of Samsung’s European corporate-customer business. “We need to be able to easily transfer between those two worlds.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE