Research in Motion’s (RIM) PlayBook tablet and a crypto product by its subsidiary have gained a key security credential that clears its path for use within US government and may signal RIM's wider plans to lure enterprise buyers.
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last week awarded the PlayBook's cryptographic module the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) certification that is required to comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
The certification “enables the U.S. federal government to buy with confidence knowing that the PlayBook meets their computing policy requirements for protecting sensitive information,” said Scott Totzke, senior vice president of RIM BlackBerry Security.
RIM is the first tablet maker to gain FIPS certification, which could provide it a much needed boost to otherwise sales of the device, which have suffered in part because of its lack of native email access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).
RIM however did not mention in its release that it also gained FIPS certification for its subsidiary Certicom's Security Builder Crypto when tested against an upcoming version of QNX -- the operating system behind RIM’s Tablet OS Version 6.6.
RIM acquired QNX in 2010 and closed off its previously open source code after it had acquired Certicom in 2009. Certicom's various FIPS crypto modules have already been certified against Java, Red Hat Linux, Palm OS, and a host of enterprise operating system and hardware configurations.
"The Security Builder FIPS Module is a standards-based cryptographic toolkit that supports optimized Elliptic Curve Cryptography and provides application developers with sophisticated tools to flexibly integrate encryption, digital signatures and other security mechanisms into both mobile and server-based applications," the NIST's validation page states.
Although the module was not tested against RIM's Tablet OS Version 6.6, its documentation states that it "is also suitable for any platforms of any manufactures" running QNX Neutrino 6.6 on ARM version 7 processors, which is the basic configuration for the PlayBook.
The product could make it easier for enterprise or developers to build and secure apps for the PlayBook and may give RIM back the security edge it once held for its BlackBerry phones.