One hundred years ago, people were able to communicate over long distances, but in limited fashion. The most common form of long-distance communication was via written letters delivered by the postal service, which in some cases took weeks or months to arrive at their intended destinations.
The telephone existed, and the first coast-to-coast phone call had been placed, but the telephone was still in its infancy and was not yet commonplace. There was the telegraph, but unless you were an actual telegraph operator, messages were sent and received in the form of telegrams. This entailed writing out your message, delivering it to a telegraph office, having someone tap out your message to its intended destination on the telegraph machine, the receiving operator typing out the message, and the telegram then being delivered to its intended recipient like a letter. Definitely faster than “snail mail”, but far from instantaneous.
There was also word-of-mouth. If you had family or acquaintances you knew would soon be interacting with others or traveling to a certain area, you could ask them to pass along a message. But it could take days or months for your message to be delivered.
Technological advancements since those days have brought us the ability to instantaneously and easily communicate with people anywhere in the world. And not just communicate, but interact via numerous mediums including written, voice, photo, and video. Email, social media, SMS & instant messaging, VoIP, video calls and other types of communication have become ubiquitous. And most people have the means to initiate or receive these communications using devices they can carry in their pockets.
We live in a truly remarkable age, an age of information and convenience. And it’s a beautiful thing.
But with the ever-increasing facility in communication and exchange of information has come an equally tremendous amount of shady, fraudulent, and malicious activity on the part of those who want to use that information to for nefarious purposes. Sadly, some of the most popular products and services that handle our personal data today take a reactive, even haphazard approach to keeping that data private and secure. High-profile data breaches are becoming commonplace, from Apple’s iCloud hack exposing photos and personal information of popular celebrities, to customer data breaches of retail giants like Home Depot and Target, and much more.
To help drive my point home and convey the seriousness of this epidemic, here is an infographic from databreachtoday.com showing the most notorious data breaches of 2014:
Something I’ve noticed as data breaches become more commonplace is that the average person is mostly oblivious to these threats. And if they are not oblivious, there seems to be a prevailing attitude that there is nothing that can really be done to stem the tide. This is the price we all pay for convenience, they say, and we should just get used to it.
Are security and privacy cumbersome, unrealistic expectations that hamper convenience and efficiency? To this, I say emphatically: no. It doesn’t have to be this way, and I refuse to roll over and accept it.
For proof that security, privacy, AND convenience are achievable in today’s world, you need look no further than BlackBerry. We’ve all heard about the massive Sony hack. Perhaps less well-known is the fact that while they were in crisis mode, they passed out old BlackBerry phones to their employees and relied on a BES server that hadn’t been compromised to facilitate secure communications.
But most people – including so-called tech bloggers and experts – seem to completely overlook or ignore the fact that BlackBerry’s security expertise extends far beyond its handsets. We’ve talked about specific BlackBerry technologies initiatives often here at BerryFlow, including BES12, Project Ion, and QNX. We’ve talked about acquisitions like SecuSmart and Movirtu. We’ve talked about partnerships with companies like NantHealth, Amazon, and Samsung.
All of these elements are beginning to mesh together in one way or another to create a synergistic platform and infrastructure providing both security and convenience to corporations and governments throughout the world, and laying the foundation for the emerging Internet of Things.
But while BlackBerry’s current products and services are targeted primarily to businesses and governments, at least for the time being, don’t underestimate the power of these technologies in the hands of the average person. Like me, the majority of BlackBerry smartphone users are still people who have the option of using whichever smartphone brand and platform they please, yet for whatever reason have settled on a BlackBerry. This is in spite of carriers, especially in North America, making it difficult to obtain BlackBerry devices. In spite of the fact that most of their peers have jumped on the Apple or Android bandwagon. And in spite of all the turmoil BlackBerry has experienced as a company.
So why, in the face of all this, do millions of people around the globe still prefer BlackBerry phones? There are probably just as many reasons as there are customers, but there are some basic, overarching themes that emerge.
One reason that is not often mentioned specifically – because it goes without saying – is that BlackBerry phones most effectively incorporate security, privacy, and convenience into a single device.
An example of this is that BlackBerry phones have supported full-device encryption, including external storage encryption, for years. iOS and Android have just now started to incorporate this important safeguard into their platforms, but people still using older devices are out of luck. And Windows Phone only supports full device encryption if you have it paired with one of their proprietary services like Exchange ActiveSync or Windows Intune.
This and a host of other examples show that BlackBerry has had security and privacy in its DNA from day one with a proven track record spanning three decades. The mobile platforms that managed to knock BlackBerry from its place of prominence in the smartphone market have either completely failed to implement such features or reluctantly tried to tack them on as an afterthought.
When it comes to people’s identities, finances, and other sensitive information, a reactive approach to security and privacy is dangerous, irresponsible, and totally unacceptable.
Individuals can and should take responsibility for the information they share. Realistically, we should assume that anything we share online could potentially be accessed and used for evil purposes. But in a world where it’s becoming increasingly necessary to share that information to be able to use available technologies and services to their full potential – to enjoy the convenience of the modern age – individuals want to know the companies they entrust with storing and transmitting that information are doing everything they can to keep it safe and secure.
So which companies can you trust with your privacy and security while still enjoying some convenience? That’s been an important question since the days of Wells Fargo stage coaches and Western Union telegraph offices. Ultimately, it’s up to you to be informed and decide for yourself. My “trusted companies” list is getting shorter almost daily, but based on what I know about their history, where they are today, and their vision for the future, BlackBerry is still near the top.