Poor BlackBerry: not only is the once-celebrated device getting some very public licks, the one pillar that seemed unshakable is beginning to see signs of strain: even the government is giving it the cold shoulder. Of course, the signs were already there but, seeing how the device is the yardstick by which other mobile device security levels are measured, it’s still odd to see the fact in print.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Dumping BB, Other US Govt Agencies, Too
According to numerous sources, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — which belongs to the Department of Homeland Security — has officially declared that it will no longer using BlackBerries. According to informationweek.com, this means ICE is “joining a growing list of agencies that are increasing their use of Android and iOS devices and, in some cases, switching away from the BlackBerry entirely.”
Instead of BBs, ICE has opted to use the iPhone. That’s 17,676 less users of BlackBerries, and 17,000 more for Apple’s iconic smartphone (also, $2 million in La Pomme’s pockets). RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, has further bad news.
The Department of Defense might not be far behind. Procurement documents released Monday by the Pentagon for mobile device management software included BlackBerry management only as a nice-to-have. The change is also happening at government contractors. Booz Allen Hamilton will move 25,000 employees from BlackBerrys to iPhones and Android devices, the company said last week. [informationweek.com]
That the government was looking into using the iPhone and iPad in their work environment is not quite “news.” I’ve already mentioned how there’s a pilot program at the VA, and how it held up to scrutiny despite its “lack” of approved AES-256 encryption.
But, to find that the entire departments are looking to completely rid themselves of BlackBerries?
This truly is news.
It speaks volumes not only of BlackBerries — I’m hearing “good riddance. We couldn’t wait to wash our hands from the device,” which surprises me. A lot — but also of Apple’s iOS. Essentially, it’s giving the government stamp of approval, meaning that businesses out there cannot dismiss Apple’s iDevices out of hand because “they’re shiny toys,” “look too pretty, so it can’t honestly be for business,” or ” overpriced” (an argument that I can foresee being made: those extra $$$ are the price of security).
More Security than Mobile Security
Of course, when it comes to government agencies, or any organization with a big enough body of employees, security of the device is not the only issue. There are also concerns on ensuring that administrative process related to security — such as audits, device tracking, proper deployments, updates, etc. — can be carried out reliably and in a timely fashion.
In other words, some kind of mobile device management (MDM) solution is necessary to make it work. Otherwise, you’d be stuck with thousands (or maybe tens of thousands, if you’re ICE) of employee devices out in the field with no centralized control.
Central control. Among Tibetan monks, probably not such a big issue. Among people who have access to Angry Birds? Definitely an issue.
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