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DOD Certifies 6 BlackBerry Devices For Military Networks

BlackBerry remains the platform of choice for government agencies, even as Research In Motion's market share slips with businesses and consumers.

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The Department of Defense has approved six relatively new BlackBerry devices for use on military networks, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion announced Monday.

The devices that will now be included on a list of products that meet the military's security requirements include the touchscreen BlackBerry Torch 9850 and 9860; the touchscreen and keyboard Torch 9810, Bold 9900, and Bold 9930; and the Curve 9360. The certification, which was handed down on May 2 by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), also includes BlackBerry Enterprise Server and two versions of the BlackBerry Smart Card Reader.

The technologies were listed following a barrage of testing performed by the Army over the last year. However, their certification does not come without a number of conditions. A DISA memo dated May 2 lists 13 steps that the military needs to take in order to ensure that any BlackBerry deployment meets military security requirements, including the requirement that any "non-core" apps installed on the devices be approved by the DISA.

[ What will the first RIM phone with the new BlackBerry platform look like? See RIM BlackBerry 10 Image Leaks. ]

"These new smartphones will now enable Army users, and all DOD users, to experience an even greater level of performance," Scott Totzke, senior VP of BlackBerry security at RIM, said in a statement. Among the technologies in the new devices include near-field communications, social features, and "augmented reality" technology that uses the devices' cameras and location-based features to help users navigate the real world by, for example, directing them to points of interest within their field of view.

For now, BlackBerry remains the platform of choice for government agencies, even as Research In Motion's market share slips with businesses and consumers. Government officials have told InformationWeek that they trust the platform due to its long history, its conformance with security standards, and its manageability via BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Numerous BlackBerry devices have received security certification for government use, including certification from the National Institute for Standards and Technology as meeting federally-mandated FIPS 140-2 encryption requirements.

"[The federal government sector] continues to grow in terms of new subscriber acquisition as well as in the reinvestment/refresh business, or customers that are at the end of their contract upgrading to new BlackBerrys," Totzke told InformationWeek in February.

However, even in government, RIM is seeing increased competition from Android and Apple iOS devices. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Army all are either testing or migrating to Android and/or iOS devices.

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