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UK government delivers blow to BlackBerry by rejecting BB10 on security grounds (updated)

In a swift blow to BlackBerry, the UK government has rejected the firm’s new BlackBerry 10 (opens in new tab) software for not being secure enough to be used for high-level government work, the Guardian has reported (opens in new tab).

The last edition of the operating system, BlackBerry version 7.1, was given clearance for essential work up to the “Restricted” level as recently as December 2012. But a round of testing on BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Balance, which the Waterloo, Ontario-based firm was hoping would help it claw back more market share, do not meet the same requirements as their predecessor.

BlackBerry confirmed that its software was rejected by the UK’s Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG), but did not say when it plans to put forward an updated version of the operating system.

"Media reports alleging that BlackBerry 10 has been 'rejected' for U.K. government use are both false and misleading. BlackBerry has a long-established relationship with CESG and we remain the only mobile solution approved for use at 'Restricted' when configured in accordance with CESG guidelines. This level of approval only comes following a process which is rigorous and absolutely necessary given the highly confidential nature of the communications being transmitted," BlackBerry countered in an emailed statement this afternoon.

"The current re-structuring of this approval process, due to the Government Protective Marking Scheme review and the new CESG Commercial Product Assurance scheme has an impact on the timeline for BlackBerry 10 to receive a similar level of approval. We are continuing to work closely with CESG on the approval of BlackBerry 10 and we're confident that BlackBerry 10 will only strengthen our position as the mobile solution of choice for the U.K. government," it added.

The weaknesses could lead to steep losses for BlackBerry, whose business has depended heavily on its reputation among government and enterprise customers. A perception that its latest software skimps on security could cause it to lose yet more ground, especially in the wake of a recent Gartner report (opens in new tab) that predicted market conditions will make it “extremely difficult” for BlackBerry to to achieve more than five percent of global market share by 2016.

Update: Both BlackBerry and the UK government have denied earlier reports that BlackBerry 10 failed to pass security testing.

"Discussions with BlackBerry are ongoing about the use of the BlackBerry 10 platform in government. We have not yet performed an evaluation of the security of that platform, but we expect to be issuing Platform Guidance in the summer. This will cover a number of platforms including Blackberry 10 (and the use of 'Balance').

We have a long standing security partnership with BlackBerry and this gives us confidence that the BlackBerry 10 platform is likely to represent a viable solution for UK Government."