BlackBerry Security Basics: Five Tips to Keep Your Smartphone Safe

BlackBerry smartphones are known for security, but if you don't know the common gotchas, your new or "unsecured" BlackBerry device could be a disaster waiting to happen. CIO.com's "CrackBerry" addict Al Sacco offers five BlackBerry security tips to fix your smartphone security holes and reduce unnecessary risk.

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Tue, March 02, 2010

CIO — BlackBerry has gained a reputation in the mobile space during the past decade or so as the "most secure" handheld device and mobile platform available. That's largely due to RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) software for corporate e-mail deployments, which has earned high-level security certifications from some of the world's most demanding information-security organizations, including the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Canada's Communication Security Establishment (CSE); and the U.K.'s Communications Electronic Security Group (CESG), among others.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 with padlock on its display

That's all fine and good for corporations looking to secure infrastructure and resources associated with their BlackBerry deployments. But no amount of security certifications can make up for an uninformed and/or careless BlackBerry user.

That's why, as a BlackBerry smartphone owner, you need to do your part to keep your device, and all the information on it, secure; whether you're a corporate BlackBerry user on a BES or a BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) customer, you can manage a number of quick and easy security safeguards on your own...and you'd be wise to do so if you'd prefer that personal and/or sensitive data on your device remains "for your eyes only."

Here's a detailed list of five tips you can use to reinforce your BlackBerry smartphone's security protections -- and perhaps reduce future headaches associated with a lost or stolen BlackBerry.

1) Password, Password, Password...One More Time: Password

If your corporate BlackBerry administrator doesn't enforce a password policy on your device or you're a consumer BlackBerry user on BIS, the very first thing you should do with your smartphone is enable password-protection. This is probably the single most important--and effective--BlackBerry security tip that anyone can offer you.

After all, there's little an average perpetrator can do with a locked-down BlackBerry, besides erase its contents.


BlackBerry Password Options Page
BlackBerry Password Options Page

To enable a new password for your BlackBerry smartphone, simply open your BlackBerry Options menu, then scroll down to and click the word Password. On the following screen, select the Password field and then enable the option via the corresponding pop-up box.

From there, hit your BlackBerry Escape key--located directly to the right of your track ball or trackpad--save your changes when prompted and then enter your new BlackBerry password. After typing the new password once, you'll be prompted to confirm your selection. Verify the password by typing it again, and your BlackBerry will be properly locked down. Just type your password again to unlock the device.

Employing a password that's easy to guess and/or determine defeats the purpose of password-protecting your device; pick a random password that isn't the word "password" or your birthday, etc. (Your BlackBerry password must be at least four characters.) And don't store that password anywhere on your BlackBerry, unless it's in the built-in password keeper app--more on that in a minute.

After enabling a BlackBerry password, you gain access to a number of related security options on the same screen. For instance, you can specify the number of failed password attempts you'd like to permit before your device locks itself down; you can pick a Security Timeout period for how long your device should remain unlocked before enabling the password; and you can choose to require a password whenever new applications are installed, to prevent apps from being installed without your knowledge.


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