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BlackBerry takes a shot at competitor privacy

19 March 2014, 07:47Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - BlackBerry has highlighted the security of its BBM platform in a thinly veiled reference to competitor applications.

"Recently, we've seen and heard about many security breaches in the news - from tens of millions of credit cards being compromised at large retailers to several million user accounts being exposed on other IM apps," wrote Jeff Gadway, BlackBerry head of product and brand marketing for BBM.

BBM or BlackBerry Messenger was the dominant instant messaging (IM) platform on BlackBerry devices, but the rise of cross-platform apps like WhatsApp and WeChat has seen erosion of market share for BBM.

The value of IMs was highlighted recently by Facebook's $19bn purchase of WhatsApp and some estimate that WeChat's value is more than $30bn.

However, IM platforms have come in for some criticism with regard to the privacy of user data.

Paul Jauregui at the security firm Praetorian said that the way the WhatsApp handles SSL encryption is not ideal, leaving the platform open to attacks.


Bass Bosschert, a Dutch security expert warned that because of the way WhatsApp saves its data on an SD card on an Android device, it was possible to hack the data.

"Security is reinforced at every level of the device from CPU to boot ROM, to OS and file system, and applications. The root of trust that BlackBerry builds for its customers remains unbroken throughout the chain, and is unlike other security models that rely on the interaction of components from multiple vendors," said Gadway.

BlackBerry is particularly keen to advertise both its consumer and enterprise services and BBM is important to the company as the service has been opened as a cross-platform application.

Gadway said that security has taken a more important role in the minds of customers in light of the government spying revealed by former security contractor Edward Snowden.

"Privacy is seen to be within the user's control, and subject to human choice - who you share with, what info you share, and how you choose to self-censor. Customers have been clear that they want and need features that help them take control over their privacy."

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said that the company was not intent on collecting user information and assured users that, despite the Facebook acquisition, there would be no change in the company's operations.

Gadway said that BlackBerry will accelerate the delivery of privacy features.

"We will continue to introduce new features which give users control over their privacy, but will do so in a way that encourages openness and fosters the building of a large and thriving BBM community. The 'Find Friends' feature provides a great example of striking a balance between openness and privacy."

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