Category Archives: Security

Blackberry platform future

One question in many people’s mind is where does Blackberry go from here.  They have already stated that they are pivoting to become a software and services company. This leads me to ponder several possibilities for where they go with the Blackberry OS story in the future.

One possibility is that the rumors are all false and Blackberry will stay with their current QNX underpinnings.  This would probably be the final nail in their coffin, if this was the decision.  Time has proven that Blackberry missed the boat on getting an OS developed that would get traction with application developers.  In fact, today a majority of apps on the Blackberry are ported applications running on the built-in Android runtime environment (albeit poorly and slowly, with many compatibility issues).

Also, since Blackberry is a smallish company whose workforce has already been shrinking, future development of the QNX part of the Blackberry OS will take valuable resources from future development of the top portion of the stack, which is the only portion of the Blackberry experience that adds value to the user.  In other words the QNX portion of the Blackberry stack is muda.

Another possibility is that Blackberry will adopt the Android platform as its core OS environment.  This would offload their organization from having to provide the valuable resources for fully developing the plumbing of the OS, while at the same time allowing them to contribute bug fixes, and targeted improvements (through the open source mechanism). It also gives them clear visibility into the entire software stack so they can continue to control the security of their offerings.

As for the developer story, if they chose the Android stack, Blackberry could easily shift their users to use Android apps provided by Blackberry World, which would become their curated version of the Google play store.  They could provide the current blackberry runtime on top of the Android kernel to provide backwards compatibility with the current BB10 apps.

Doing the same thing as the Android prediction, only using the Windows 10 stack is another interesting possibility.  The Windows Phone share is also not large, but the future is very promising for Windows Phone.  The new Universal Application story which will allow write once, run anywhere is very interesting indeed.  All that would seem to need to happen for this to work is for Blackberry to convince Microsoft its worth their while to create a version of the .Net core runtime that will run on their current platform.  Then they can have the Windows store on their phones.

Out of these three options I think the Android version makes the most sense.  They get to offload a lot of the grunt work of an OS to Google and the open source community, they get access to an already huge application pool.  This is compatible with their Enterprise server MDM story as well since they can manage Android devices and applications already with BES 12.  Finally, it allows them to focus their limited resources on the things that differentiate them from their competition, their security and integration with enterprise workflow.

Please post a comment below to let me know what you think…

What is an air gapped Computer?

An air gapped (aka Air Walled) computer is essentially a technique for keeping a computer or network secure.  This is usually done by keeping the computer off the network physically.

This can be done to keep sensitive data on the Air gapped computer or network from being compromised, but can also be done to keep another network safe from an unknown network.

Examples from wikipedia follow:

  • Military/governmental computer networks/systems;
  • Financial computer systems, such as stock exchanges;
  • Industrial control systems, such as SCADA in Oil & Gas fields;
  • Life-critical systems, such as: Controls of nuclear power plants;
  • Computers used in aviation, such as FADECs and avionics;
  • Computerized medical equipment;
  • Very simple systems, where there is no need to compromise security in the first place, such as: The engine control unit in an automobile;
  • A digital thermostat for temperature and compressor regulation in home HVAC and refrigeration systems;
  • Electronic sprinkler controls for watering of lawns.

This Air gapping was discussed on the HBO series The Newsroom during the first episode of the third season, called Boston,  where some whistleblower trying to give Neal classified documents asks him to get an “air gapped computer.”  In the show they describe this as a computer that is not and has never been connected to a network. While this is not inaccurate, you can see above that there are other scenarios that qualify.