BlackBerry and Boeing team up to make a self-destructing smart phone

Boeing and BlackBerry have built a phone for employees and contractors in the security industry. The device will erase its own data if the case is opened.

Boeing
The Boeing Black is completely sealed; if someone attempts to open the case the phone will delete all its data and become inoperable.

BlackBerry may have lost a lot of customers over the past five years as people migrated to iPhone and Android, but the company still has a good reputation among business users who value its emphasis on privacy and security.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that aircraft giant and national-security contractor Boeing is partnering with BlackBerry to develop the Boeing Black, a super-secure Android-based smart phone for workers in the defense and security fields.

If a Boeing Black falls into the wrong hands, it can self-destruct, Mission Impossible-style, deleting all its stored data and making itself unusable.

Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission in February show that the Boeing Black is completely sealed, with no user-serviceable parts. The case is glued with epoxy and the screws have a tamper-proof covering; if anyone tries to open the phone to get at the hard drive inside, the Boeing Black will automatically erase its contents. The phone also has two SIM cards: one to connect to regular commercial cellular networks and another to connect to government networks.

The phone’s data will be secured through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, the latest version of which, known as BES12, was introduced in November. BES12 lets companies set strict permission levels for accessing data, allowing them to keep confidential information secret on employees’ devices.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen briefly mentioned the Boeing Black during his company’s earnings call on Monday, saying, “We’re pleased to announce that Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide a secure mobile solution for Android devices utilizing our BES12 platform.... That, by the way, is all they allow me to say.”

There’s no word yet on how much the phones will cost, or when they’ll be available.

Since becoming CEO last year, Mr. Chen has doubled down on BlackBerry’s reputation for security, increasing the company’s focus on business and government users. BlackBerry released two new phones this year aimed at business users: the Passport, a large, square device, and the Classic, a handset with a hardware keyboard that’s a throwback to the BlackBerry phones of the mid-2000s.

BlackBerry’s also planning to get involved in the Internet of Things, the interconnected web of appliances and devices such as refrigerators, cars, and thermostats. Chen said on Friday that the company will unveil its plans for connected cars and homes at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas in January.

BlackBerry reported a net loss of $148 million for the third quarter on Friday, which is far better than the $4.4 billion loss it suffered during the same quarter last year. Chen predicted that the company will become profitable in 2016.

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