BlackBerry teams with Boeing for secure phone that can self-destruct

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is working with aerospace and defense contracting giant Boeing on a customized BlackBerry device that can self-destruct and has other high-level security features, according to multiple reports.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen disclosed the relationship on Friday but little has been known about the phone, which is being dubbed Boeing Black. "We're pleased to announce that Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide a secure mobile solution for Android devices utilizing our BES12 platform," Chen said during the company's quarterly earnings conference call on Friday, referring to the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 platform. "That, by the way, is all they allow me to say."

For BlackBerry, the partnership is a showcase of its security credentials at a time when it is trying to win back government and enterprise clients. Further, companies like Ziklag Systems as well as Silent Circle and its joint venture with GeeksPhone, Blackphone, are trying to muscle into the same market for secure phones.

According to Reuters, the forthcoming BlackBerry-Boeing phone encrypts calls and is aimed at government agencies and others looking to keep communications secure. The phone is a dual-SIM device and can be configured to connect with biometric sensors and satellites, according to Reuters. Boeing, which is trying to keep a hold on the homeland security and defense contracting markets as Pentagon budgets decline, has started offering the phone to potential customers, Reuters reported.

The two companies are "pursuing a number of opportunities" that would pair the Boeing device with BlackBerry's BES platform, Boeing spokesman Andy Lee told Bloomberg.

"Boeing has decades of experience providing defense and security customers with secure communications," Lee said. "We are working with BlackBerry to help them ensure the BES12 operating system is compatible with, and optimized for use by, the ultra-secure mobile devices favored by the defense and security community."

Little is known about the Boeing Black phone, which the company says in a brochure "was designed with security and modularity in mind." The phone features triggers that can cause the handset to self-destruct if it is tampered with.

According to Bloomberg, the phone is manufactured as a sealed device with epoxy around its casing and screws and a tamper-proof covering over the screw-heads "to identify attempted disassembly." That is according to a Feb. 24 letter Bloomberg cited from Bruce Olcott, outside counsel to Boeing to the FCC, requesting that confidential design details be kept secret.

"Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable," Olcott wrote.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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