BlackBerry PlayBook gets the thumbs up from the US federal government

Opinion by Dan Raywood

The BlackBerry PlayBook has been selected as the first tablet certified for deployment within US federal government agencies.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has been selected as the first tablet certified for deployment within US federal government agencies.

The PlayBook has Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 certification received from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is required under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

Launched earlier this year, the PlayBook has been sold on the same security capabilities as the smartphone, while other devices have been snubbed for their locked or open source operating systems.

Does this mean that the PlayBook could become the primary choice for governments? The Apple iPad proved to be a capable option for the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg when he found himself stranded in New York due to the Iceland ash cloud last year, but this was more of a case of necessity than choice.

It was recently suggested to me that security departments will look to UK accreditation body CESG (the Information Assurance arm of the UK Government communications headquarters for approved solutions). At present, CESG does not have any approved devices but it has approved the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Described as a ‘multi-tasking powerhouse' in its adverts and as an ‘ultra-portable tablet that fits comfortably in one hand' in its marketing, according to Research in Motion, the PlayBook allows for secure pairing with BlackBerry smartphones via the BlackBerry Bridge application, which enables users to access their BlackBerry smartphone's email, calendar, address book, memo pad, task list, BlackBerry Messenger and browsing functionality using the larger display on the tablet.

The company was in no doubt as to the importance of US federal government approval to its security focus. Scott Totzke, senior vice president of BlackBerry security at Research in Motion, said: “This certification demonstrates our continued commitment to meeting the needs of security-conscious organisations and enables the US federal government to buy with confidence knowing that the PlayBook meets their computing policy requirements for protecting sensitive information.”

CESG were unable to tell me if there was any testing being done on other devices, but this could be a major stepping-stone for global acceptance of tablet and ‘consumer' devices in the workplace. After all, if it is good enough for the US government, then many others may follow.

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