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BlackBerry’s Android Slider Using Hardened Linux Kernel

By September 20, 2015Android, News
BlackBerry-Venice-Grsecurity

With BlackBerry’s focus of best in class security, many options were tested when it came to securing the companies first foray into Android. In a previous opinion thread we speculated that BlackBerry may seek to utilize their own technologies to harden the security layers around Android, to a degree this was correct. With some of the latest leaks of the device it instead looks like they’re utilizing a popular grsecurity architecture which is a set of security patches and access controls to allow the OEM to lock down aspects of the root kernel to secure the bedrock of the platform.

Grsecurity® is an extensive security enhancement to the Linux kernel that defends against a wide range of security threats through intelligent access control, memory corruption-based exploit prevention, and a host of other system hardening that generally require no configuration. It has been actively developed and maintained for the past 14 years. Commercial support for grsecurity is available through Open Source Security, Inc.

blackberry-venice-leak-2-copy-copy1

blackberry-venice-leak-3-840x630This ‘secure’ kernel alongside the preloaded application BlackBerry Safeguard  will offer top to bottom security measures to make this, arguably, one of the most secure consumer Android devices to hit the market. So much remains unconfirmed at this point but all signs point to BlackBerry’s capability to secure Android and bring a trusted product to market. Time will tell whether the end users will care about such implementation considering BlackBerry 10 handsets already offer these security features for years.

BB_Venice

Source: Blackberries.ru

James Nieves

Author James Nieves

Manning the helm here @BBRYFLOW. Feel free to shoot me an email.

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  • Copernic

    And to add some interesting things… Watchdox was acquired by Blackberry. One of the board is William Murphy coming from Blackstone, owner of Optiv (accuvant) in where GrSecurity is linked… Plus… Nanthealth is funded by Blackstone too in where Blackberry has a deep link in healthcare system. Maybe we will see some move in couple months (ex-accuvant to Blackberry or subsidiaries)

    • QNXbbx

      If they drop bb10, they really are ready for the green mile

  • Jon raymonds

    That a awesome phone

  • Copernic

    Yes but… (does not mean no) in term of visibility for developers we have seen better !

  • nearvanaman

    I wonder what this means for ‘rooters’. I’m sure a lot of potential customers would be turned off by an inability to root.

    • QNXbbx

      You look like a droid genius

  • david

    Well I have said it before and I will say it again, BlackBerry better be upfront and honest about their plans for BB10. No more cute jokes and half answers Mr. Chen.

    I understand all the business rationalizations but sorry Android just looks and feels cheap. And frankly, the Venice leaks doesn’t change my opinion. No software optimization, just another layer of disjointed blackberry apps placed on top of an already bloated and chaotic UI. Really, this was the best blackberry could do?

    Well I hope Mr. Chen you show up with more news when the Venice is announced. For a year of engineering effort, what I have seen this far is sadly disappointing.

    • QNXbbx

      Totally agree !
      In 1 year of development, we bb10 users (believers) would have had:
      – bb10.2 (the military grade certified) including all its stock apps ported to QT 5.6 native and FLOWING, purified from the infamous material crap infection introduced in 10.3.1.
      – The bloody analdroid runtime totally removed including its nefarious dependencies
      -Blend integrated native.
      All smoking flat on QNX.

      We would have back our AGNOSTIC mobile os we bought and trusted since 2013, IMMO by far, the best we have seen on the market till today!
      Without countless fart apps !
      A blend of simplicity of use, harmonic user experience, security and PRIVACY PROTECTION.
      The essence of a SMART communication tool.
      Our bb10 Masterpiece.

      But this is what we must face :
      BlackBerry invested to secure another platform, with stuff that has been around for 14 years.

      As you pointed out:
      We deserve some explanation…

  • Paul Smith

    Maybe it’s time for BlackBerry to buy Open Source Security Inc.

    • QNXbbx

      How comes, this security patchwork on Linux kernel which has been around for 14 years was never discovered by the vaporware masters at Gooooooooooogle ?
      To secure their own crap?
      Yeah kernel stuff is soo complicated… and they are just clowns !

    • James Nieves

      @QNXbb Google uses a secure kernel called SELinux to add security parameters to Android M and above….

      https://source.android.com/devices/tech/security/selinux/

    • QNXbbx

      14 years !!

  • I believe the main reason for a Blackberry ‘droid’ is the hook up with Samsung on knox. As Chen has stated many times, the cell phone is the first line of defense in security and it is much much harder, if not impossible to be very secure without and end to end solution. Will the phone be dual boot? Some believe Google will not allow a dual boot phone, however, we don’t know that is the case. There has been at least one video showing a Venice with an “android” button, suggesting that at least a dual boot phone is a possibility. For Blackberry’s on BES, enterprise is containerized for security reasons, with personal use entirely separate. With the Knox hook up, it makes sense that Blackberry ‘droids’, if not dual boot, will have a similar architecture, with enterprise ‘containerized’ on Knox, with personal use on google. Also, no doubt there are many more ‘droids’ than Blackberry’s in use amongst enterprise users.

    Now that Blackberry has bought Good, can we expect a Blackberry ‘iphone’ too?

    • Alex Bass

      There has never been a Venice leak of it running on BB10 in any regards, especially not with a “switch to android” button. That was a Passport and photoshopped. It won’t be a dual booting device. It’s secured Android and that’s what it is, there’s no super crazy things hiding that we don’t yet already know.

      Also, Android is open source.. There can never be a “secured iPhone by BlackBerry” in the way that the Venice is a BlackBerry device running secured Android. Apple does not let 3rd party companies to build iPhone or modify their OS. All BlackBerry can do is make and put the BlackBerry experience suite apps on an iPhone which likey won’t have too much integration because Apple has NEVER allowed for developers to have much integration into the OS. They will just be apps that are secure, but having a secure app suite on your phone does not make your entire phone secured.

  • copernic

    Blackberry is taking its time to answer this question BB10 is dead or not and I must say that all these *leaks* cannot help the actual devices sales. Blackberry is in the same position than Nokia when they failed with Meego. The fact is they must propose a complete change. Proving that BB10 is still continued or changing the entire ecosystem (with a possibility to switch your device (I mean all) to Blackdroid OS).

    • It’s a marked change in strategy for them. A paradigm shift it must be for consumers to look at it. I have said on Upstream that I really think the slide is a “secure” Android aimed at the enterprise so that BlackBerry enterprise sales team and push BES12 and sell BlackBerry hardware instead of Samsung or iPhone. I don’t really think there’s much for BlackBerry to do in the consumer space but it’s gotta be commercially available ie real carrier support and respect.

    • Leroy Padilla

      They already announced 10.3.3 in March 2016. BB10 lives on!!

  • Joseph

    If I was going to go Android, I would definitely be all in on that. But unfortunately it’s all about about for most consumers. :)

    • BlackBerry 10 ftw!

    • Joseph

      What I met is “it’s all about the apps for most consumers”.

    • Venice makes sense given the hook up with Samsung on Knox. As Chen has stated, for an end to end security solution, Blackberry must make and offer handsets. No doubt there are many more enterprise Android users than Blackberry users, so
      Venice is an attractive business proposition to compliment BES12 marketing. I agree carrier support is critical, and although Venice is directed at enterprise, given the size of the consumer Android market, who knows, there is always the possibility that Venice could go viral among consumers.