BlackBerry has launched a new level of encryption for its BBM text messaging system. Messages using BBM Protected are secured using a secure passphrase, shared between two or more users, used to create a unique and constantly changing encryption.
BBM Protected is aimed at organizations in need of secure communication channels, such as law firms, tech companies and the military. Users share a passphrase through email, over the phone, or for added security, in person. BlackBerry's system will then use that passphrase to encrypt and decrypt messages sent between the two users. The encryption changes with each individual message, so even if a hacker managed to decode one message, he would be forced to start over to get more than a tiny slice of the conversation.
The secure messaging system is embedded within the existing BlackBerry app. Users can choose to set any conversation to be encrypted with BBM Protected. Messages can be sent to others within the same company using a shared employee passphrase, or between people at different companies to protect sensitive information, such as contract terms and mergers.
"BBM Protected brings regulated industries the most secure and reliable real-time mobile messaging experience in the industry," BlackBerry said in a statement. "BBM Protected is the only secure mobile instant messaging app that uses a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic library."
Currently BBM Protected can be used on smartphones running BBOS 6.0 or later. It can also operate on BlackBerry 10 phones in Regulated mode. Support for BlackBerry 10 phones using BlackBerry Balance is coming soon. The company is also working on versions of BBM Protected for iOS and Android, which are due to be released later this year.
"We've been testing BBM Protected on behalf of our customers and have been impressed so far," said Zekeria Oezdemir, Technical Director of NovaLink in BlackBerry's statement. "BBM Protected is the ideal solution for our banking and insurance customers who have increased security needs."
BlackBerry is looking at a number of ways to monetize the BBM system, including using it as a way to transfer money between users. A preliminary version of the service is under testing in Indonesia, and may be extended to other countries this year.