Is BlackBerry More Secure Than Android? Ask Obama and the US Military.


Despite the growth of Android and iOS, corporate types continue to clutch their BlackBerry’s on Wall Street and elsewhere, largely pointing to security as the main reason they won’t give up on RIM. But how long until that becomes a distant memory? Maybe not long if the National Security Agency, US Army, and other American military branches have anything to say about it.

Word out of Government Computer News says Google, George Mason, and the NSA have teamed up to produce a hardened kernel of Android 3.0 with, “a government plan to create a secure national wireless network for first responders.” According to CGN, the hardened kernel is in the final stages of certification.

President Obama is a notorious Blackberry user, but check out this quote on the reason to go with Android rather than Blackberry in this snippet pulled directly from the article:

In addition to the Army’s plans to provide troops with smart phones, the Obama administration was attracted to the technology to support two of its initiatives. One is an effort by the White House Communications Office to move the executive branch from BlackBerry devices to Android-based phones. The reason is because Android devices with the new kernel can be secured at a higher clearance level than BlackBerry devices, McCarthy said.

You could argue that the type of security the government require and the kind corporations need are totally different, but regardless, I think it says a lot about the widening gap between Android, iOS, and the soon to be distant competitors including RIM.

What do you think about the difference between security – whether for government or business purposes – between Android and Blackberry?

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. I am only concerned about Android robot gaining access to weapons, becoming self aware and enslaving all of us. iOS on the other hand, it’s just toy given to kids in order to distract them while the adults are busy.

    1. Android running on an android? *runs*

    2. Fool!

      I for one, welcome my new Android Masters!

  2. The ability of what you can do with Android is almost limitless. The government can do THEIR OWN modifications to the Android Kernel, which I believe is what they prefer vs. RIM.

    1. Do they have to release the source code?

      1. Duh? The kernel doesn’t cease being GPL’ed just because the government uses it.

        1. erm…no, no they don’t have to release it. They ONLY have to release any modifications if they offer it up for someone else to use. For your own private non-commercial use you do NOT have to provide source code.

      2. No the Government plays by different rules then most.

        1. Of course! What would be the point in having a communications device that is potentially transmitting and receiving highly sensitive information if it is using the same cryptographic protocols, transport layer securities, etc. as everyone else is using? In many lower-security areas, they will, but the more sensitive the information, the more complicated it becomes. In general, custom-made encryption systems are used for highly sensitive data, and the more sensitive the information, the more complicated the encryption. You can bet the farm that the President isn’t using the same security protocols/encryption systems as, say, the guy who mows the White House lawn.

      3. Not unless they’re changing it. Using GPL’d library APIs and keeping your own source closed is perfectly in line with GPL.

      4. National security concerns trump legal concerns so quickly and easily its laughable. Many make the argument that the government abuses its power to trump other legal concerns, in fact. Though I tend to agree in some cases on that argument, as a citizen I seriously hope that they DON’T. I just think it invites to many potential problems to a legit national security concern. As long as these are handsets are only being distributed to authorized government officials and not being sold on the open market, I have zero issues with not distributing any modification they make to the kernel.

        And I want to keep my fantasy of an airman blowing up a terrorist compound on the Predator Drone app from his cyberdroid.

      5. As long as they use it “internally”, meaning they don’t sell it to the public, no they don’t.

      6. The government has in the past contributed their enhancements to Linux. Does anyone remember SELinux? its an addon to the Linux kernel for implementing mandatory access controls. This was developed at NSA and the full source was contributed to the community.

        The government also funded certification of Openssl and the resulting certified module was made available as opensource.

        guys stop bashing the government about this unless you know what your talking about.

  3. I think Obama needs to keep his chocolate outta my peanut butter. Android it’s fantastic without his endorsement.

    1. President Obama :) Take your political crap elsewhere, this a board for ANDROID, not a puplit for Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin.

      1. First, no one mentioned Beck or Palin. Second, the article does talk about Obama. Regardless of the president, I wouldn’t want their endorsement simply because it people to get political about it. Android rules without the president. It sounds like you jumped the gun on the politics there. Keep it about the subject – Android.

        1. You are making it political. It’s not an endorsement. It’s the government looking to adopt Android as it’s platform of choice. Just because Obama is the president doesn’t make this a political statement. Get out of here with your crap.

          1. Sorry to burst your bubble but free speech isn’t reserved just for you. Read the article again. It clearly says that the president talked about this being one of his initiatives. If the military wants to use Android as a test bed, great. That’s because it gets vetted, not because a president says he wants it. Don’t get so defensive. I like Android because one of it’s qualities is that it transcends politics. Anyone can use it anyway they want. If that bothers you, then perhaps it is you that needs to jump off this board.

          2. I read the article and the source article.. Doesn’t say anything about what “Obama talked about”,, in fact the only quote is from someone named McCarthy in the Army.. Roy has a point that you miss. The government is huge, and every decision made is not the Presidents.. whether a good or a bad decision.. Your bias is evident, when even good things must have an agenda..

          3. You apparently lack sense. If he was making it political he would say something regarding his capabilities as President or commenting about the different parties. All he said was he didn’t want the President’s endorsement. Why don’t you get out of here?

          4. *adds inappropriate and trolling comment about religion and sports*

          5. Amazing sensibility. I started off by saying that I don’t think Android needs any presidential endorsement. It’s a fantastic operating system. It’s capable of so much. The fact that the military is choosing to test out a ruggedized kernel is testament to what a good LINUX kernel and Android can take on. It is a bit funny that when anyone mentions Obama by name, it’s not because he’s the president. It’s because there must be an agenda. Conservatives need to bash him. Liberals feel the need to rush to his defense. I’ve seen several examples of the latter here which shows that they are truly making this a political discussion. Thank you for seeing past that andonly commenting on what I originally said. BTW, I am neither a republican or a democrat. Not that it should matter in the context of this article. At least you showed great defense of common sense …or at least what used to be common.

  4. Well I don’t blame them one bit. It seems Blackberry’s system goes down every so often leaving everyone stranded. I know the outage this past week sure wasn’t their first.

    1. Shows what a very secure system Blackberry have when you can’t even read your own messages ;-P

  5. Eric Schmidt is on Obama’s board… nuff said.

    Android 4 life :)

    1. Not a good thing. Auto first hand to our private data. “Yea we could do that, you gotta do this for us.”

  6. This is the deathnail in the coffin for rim. Say goodbye rim, it’s time to go away and join Steve Jobs in, well i’m not going there so you can figure out what I was going to say.

    1. yikes, too soon.

  7. If xda developers can crack HTC’s 264 bit encryption, im sure they can hack a half assed government kernel.

    1. First of all, there is no such thing as 264-bit encryption (that would be 256-bit). Secondly, if you think the government doesn’t take data security seriously, think again. I’m not saying the kernel they’re developing is flawless, but it will definitely be one seriously tough nut to crack.

      1. Just like all the cables that were released shows how seriously they take it? Haha

        1. Remember the issue with the cable leaks was not a system security flaw, it was a rogue private with clearance to access these files. I was in the military and served under the Intel brigades and to me it felt that data should be provided to Intel officers and ncos on a need to know basis and access to data has to be acquired with supervision of two additional higher ranking personnel, one nco and one officer. So the point still stands the government does use the highest levels of encryption known out there. Even though in due time anything is crackable government systems are the most difficult to infiltrate.

  8. IIt’s actually the 3.0 kernel they are certifying. Ice cream sandwich will include this new kernel when released. I am pretty certain they will publish any guidance supporting configuring the tested security capabilities. They usually do. BTW, there is already guidance in the works:


  9. Gotta love the openness of Android. You have to wonder why RIM doesn’t take a shot at offering Android devices alongside Blackberry offerings. They could still use their tried and true corporate features but have a mobile platform that’s actually relevant. Come on RIM, join the revolution.

    1. I believe they’re working on BES connectivity to Android devices. They’d probably make more money in software sales than they do in RIM hardware if they opened up the BES to Apple & Android.

      1. Well yeah, there’s that too, but RIM has been and probably always wants to stay a hardware and software company. They need to open up their Blackberry Enterprise Services to Android and iOS, but I also think they’d be better off switching to Android for their own phones and tablets. They can’t seem to get QNX going fast enough and even when they do they wont have the apps. They’re already planning to use Android apps to prop up QNX, why not just use Android?

  10. Go ahead and catch up! About time our government joined this century and moved to Android based smartphones! Welcome to a Growing group of Happy Folks!

  11. My concern is hardened kernel technology potentially being spread to our devices thereby eliminating the rooting and roming that we love.

  12. Makes all the encrypted Motorola phones logical now. I can see Motorola being the chosen Android phone for the military when you combine this with their encrypted bootloader and their normally rugged design.

    If they are the chosen phone, going after RIM’s market was probably a wee bit more important than those of us that wanted custom ROMs.

  13. blackberry next blackout solution:

  14. The plan is to eventually have Android help run their upcoming, yet underground system called wirenet or something like that. Its first use will be for the airforce. :D

  15. So I read this article:

    Then I read this:

    And then I laughed.

    I do love blackberry. I do. But they were just to late to change and will likely die off. And that makes me sad. I hope not. But if it is to be, hopefully some features of blackberry will find their way over to android.

    At this point though, I do think that RIM is still on top when it come to security. People who react to something like this obviously do not understand that everything is likely to fall prey to attack. This is the information age where every aspect of you life and business is one someone’s hard drive or server. To think that it will never get hacked or experience an outage is just dumb. And in this case it was an outage. I didn’t hear any case of them being hacked. Which matters more to me.

  16. Until and unless they get the FIPS-2 certification, they won’t be as secure as RIM. And the hardware will then have some catching up to do…

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