Its dimensions may not suit all tastes, but for the output-oriented doer more concerned with keeping a device safe and productive than being hypnotised by the latest games, the BlackBerry Passport may be just the ticket.
With a jaw-dropping 4.5″ display allowing perusal of full-sized webpages, coupled with a capacitative keyboard capable of both typing and scrolling, the device is ideal for the business person who likes to work on the go. Judging by the glowing customer reviews, the Passport is also being well received by more casual smartphone users simply looking for something a little less mainstream that stands out from the crowd.
Strong security heritage
But it’s not just the Passport’s novel looks and uber productivity that sets it apart from other devices: it also inherits BlackBerry’s strong security heritage, which has helped keep the firm’s devices in the hands of world leaders and executives despite heavy market domination by other manufacturers.
So what features specifically have made these devices so inherently secure? The best way to explore this question is to start with the cascade of integrity checks that occur every time a BlackBerry is switched on.
BlackBerry hardware Root of Trust
The company peel their device security all the way down to brass tacks, starting at component level, with each subsequent layer of installed software effectively having to provide proof of identity during the start-up process.
Firstly, the Boot ROM embedded on a Passport’s CPU is verified by an EC 521 public cryptography key. Next, a SHA-2 (256-bit Secure Hashing Algorithm) is used to verify the BlackBerry 10 Operating System (OS). Finally, the inventory of Software applications installed on the OS are then checked through further uses of hashes. For the unfamiliar, hashing is a technique which uses a cryptographic algorithm to convert data into a numeric value, which can then be used as a checksum to verify the data’s integrity.
Starting the “root of trust” (RoT) at the hardware level through this series of processes helps ensure that no tampering has occurred and no malicious software is running behind the scenes.
The BlackBerry 10 OS itself is also crafted through very efficient, minimalist use of code, therefore leaving it less prone to vulnerabilities and more amenable to scrutiny for any lurking flaws. In addition, only core BlackBerry OS processes are allowed to run in the all-powerful root mode (root privileges allow a user or process access to do anything to any file or folder), helping to limit the damage that a malicious third-party application can inflict on the Passport.
Separate work and personal spaces
Perhaps the most interesting security feature of the BlackBerry 10 OS is the ability to create logically separate Work and Personal Spaces within the Base file system. The Work Space can be used to keep business data cocooned in its own encrypted area where it won’t inadvertently get mixed with personal data. What’s more, when integrated with BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) 10, a Work Space can access a separate BlackBerry World for Work application store with a selection of enterprise-focus apps that can be approved for use by a business’s BES 10 administrator. Meanwhile, the usual BlackBerry World for personal use remain available whilst working in that space where a wider range of applications remain available for download and use.
With strong security credentials, the distinctive BlackBerry keyboard that originally helped make its devices so popular and touch-screen functionality to rival most other smartphones, the Passport delivers a refreshing change to a world filled with rectangular slabs.
Did you find this post useful? Follow @DS_Watch on twitter or sign up for email updates to get more posts on security tech.