Blackberry releases BBM Protected, a secure chat service for enterprise


Early in the year, Blackberry announced “a mobile platform for the security conscious”. Dubbed eBBM Suite, the new features that were to be rolled out to its devices in coming months had one purpose: to go after the enterprise market that the company has been losing over the last four years at an alarming rate to competitors like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. BBM Protected was to be part of that suite and it is now available for use on select Blackberry devices.

BBM Protected is BBM as we know it but for the enterprise because it features an extra layer of security. Messages between BBM Protected users are encrypted on top of the standard encryption Blackberry employs for its services (see diagram below).

According to Blackberry, this is how the service works:

  • Messages between BBM Protected users are encrypted using a PGP like model. The sender and recipient have unique public/private encryption and signing keys.
  • These keys are generated on the device, by the FIPS 140-2 certified cryptographic library, and are controlled by the enterprise.
  • Each message uses a new random symmetric key for message encryption. 
  • A Triple DES 168-bit BBM scrambling key encrypts messages on the sender’s smartphone, and is used to authenticate and decrypt messages on the recipient’s phone. 
  • TLS encryption between the smartphone and the BBM infrastructure helps protect BBM messages from eavesdropping or manipulation.

As such, BBM Protected allows people in an enterprise setting to communicate securely whether at work or off work and even with BBM protected users in other companies.

Blackberry is counting on this to hold onto its existing base of high profile enterprise customers that include governments, banks, security agencies and other companies that have stuck with the company mainly for its famed security infrastructure and continue to be its saving grace in the wake of dwindling fortunes on the mainstream consumer side where sales of Blackberry devices have plummeted and its once enviable hold on the global smartphone market is no longer visible.

BBM Protected is now readily available for use by those with BlackBerry OS devices running BlackBerry Device Software 6.0 (BB6) or on BES 5 and those with BlackBerry 10 smartphones with gold licenses on BES10. The iOS and Android versions are expected later on.