Obama’s Blackberry

President Obama will soon get his BlackBerry back, Bill Gertz reports, with some mods from Q.

President Obama will soon get his souped-up, high-security BlackBerry for use in and around the White House and during presidential travel, according to Obama administration officials.

The top-secret BlackBerry 8830 is in the final stages of development by the National Security Agency, which will soon begin checking to make sure its encryption software meets federal standards. The device could be ready for use in the next few months.

Once in hand, the president will be able to send text and e-mail and make phone calls to others with the secure software loaded on their devices. Others expected to get secure BlackBerrys include top aides as well as first lady Michelle Obama.

The software being used is called SecureVoice, developed by the Genesis Key Inc. of Washington. It can turn any BlackBerry 8830 or Curve into a device that is designed to defeat hackers, eavesdroppers and spies.

That’s the same phone I carry, minus the super-secret encryption stuff. For reasons I can’t fathom, however, the added software apparently makes the phone much larger (or warmer?), thereby necessitating carrying it in a dorky belt holster; mine fits in my pocket.

via @technosailor

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Ya know, I suppose if I wore a suit coat all the time, as you’ve said you do, James, I guess I’d be inclined to keep my Treo on my pocket, as well.

    As it is, because I don’t wear such, I have a holster, not unlike what’s pictured here.
    Of course to be fair to me, I make that stuff look good. (grin)

    Oh.. and I’ve found that installing a second holster clip on the ceiling of my truck when I’m driving makes the holster thing a lot more sensible a system in the overall; I can use hands free that way.

    Minutiae out of the way, I’ll wonder openly how long it’ll be before, the secuity arrangements on that phone of his, being so identified, fall to some hacker or another. It’s as good an invitaton as screaming’hack this phone’ as I can think of.

  2. Boyd says:

    The device could be ready for use in the next few months.

    This leads me to believe the pictured device isn’t the 8830, although I have no idea what one looks like, and I’m too damned lazy/don’t care enough to go find out.

  3. Michael says:

    For reasons I can’t fathom, however, the added software apparently makes the phone much larger (or warmer?), thereby necessitating carrying it in a dorky belt holster; mine fits in my pocket.

    It was probably more cost effective than sewing Faraday cages into all of Obama’s pants.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    That’s the same phone I carry

    I sense comedy plot potential here…

  5. JKB says:

    No way the encryption is in software, not at the level the president needs and manage realtime voice. Not to mention the aforementioned hacking of the OS and onboard software is the route in. So the super secret device is a hardware attachment that controls the mic, keyboard, screen, and speaker then feeds the Blackberry OS the encrypted stream for transmission. Anything less and the NSA is laying down on the job. And the NSA doesn’t lay down on the job.

  6. Michael says:

    No way the encryption is in software, not at the level the president needs and manage realtime voice.

    I figured the encryption was just for messaging, not voice. I mean, do people even use the voice functionality of a blackberry? RIM could ship the next model without a microphone or speaker,and probably only inconvenience a hand full of people.

  7. James Joyner says:

    I mean, do people even use the voice functionality of a blackberry? RIM could ship the next model without a microphone or speaker,and probably only inconvenience a hand full of people.

    It’s not a great mobile phone but my wife and I both use ours that way. Too inconvenient to carry yet another device, frankly, and I tend not to talk long.

  8. William d'Inger says:

    PREDICTION: Twenty-five years from now we will learn that Obama’s “secure” phone was hacked on day one and that the Chinese monitored every message (voice and text) that went through the device and were bold enough to reconquer Taiwan because they knew Obama wouldn’t stop them.

  9. Chris says:

    The phone needs to be carried in a holster because it can also fire bullets.

  10. Bithead says:

    I figured the encryption was just for messaging, not voice. I mean, do people even use the voice functionality of a blackberry?

    Every phone I’ve had that used digital streaming as opposed to straight analog had at least some sort of rudimentary data encryption. My current phone is no exception.

    as to actually using the voice capability, I’ve seen people do it, but not very often. Once you graduate to that kind of phone, (and in this I would include my Treo) you tend to use it for data more than anything else.

  11. Bithead says:

    Twenty-five years from now we will learn that Obama’s “secure” phone was hacked on day one and that the Chinese monitored every message (voice and text) that went through the device and were bold enough to reconquer Taiwan because they knew Obama wouldn’t stop them.

    You had me right up tell the end. Do you really think they’d need that capability to make that judgment?

  12. Michael says:

    Every phone I’ve had that used digital streaming as opposed to straight analog had at least some sort of rudimentary data encryption. My current phone is no exception.

    I find that very difficult to believe. Encoding yes, frequency hoping sure, but not encryption.

    I’d be willing to allow encryption from your handset to the telco’s network, though I find even that unlikely with roaming and phone portability. Certainly there is no way you had end-to-end encryption.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    re: William d’Inger | April 25, 2009 | 08:28 am

    re: Bithead | April 26, 2009 | 02:07 pm

    Ahh, the silly little right-wing “Obama is weak” canard…do you tell yourselves this every day to make yourself feel better? It just burns you up that this guy, of all people, is your president, doesn’t it…