In the United States, as I'm sure it is in many parts of the world, we take our right to privacy very seriously. Our Fourth Amendment to our Constitution protects us from unreasonable search and seizure, and we defend that right so vehemently that the simple act of moving a computer mouse to wake a computer from a screen saver mode has been ruled an illegal search.
Strangely though, your mobile device may not have those same protections. In California, a court ruling in January gave officers the go-ahead to search your Smartphone without a warrant. The court based its ruling on existing law and case precedents, but those never considered the possibility of a private citizen carrying a mobile computer with direct connections to the most private parts of their lives on it.
Realizing that the laws in the state needed a bit of an update, the California legislature stepped in to pass a bill, SB 914, to require a duly authorized search warrant be issued before a person's mobile device could be searched. It passed in the state's Assembly and Senate chambers by a 70-0 and 32-4 margin, respectively. However, in mid-October, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill stating that he felt the courts and not the legislature were "better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues..."
But even if you did manage to remove from your BlackBerry all details of that Panda smuggling operation you masterminded last summer, government officials aren't the only ones who could be snooping around your Smartphone. Friends, family, co-workers, girlfriends, boyfriends and even parents sometimes get a little nosy. So, inspired by this Wired.com article, here's how to keep your BlackBerry Smartphone secure.
Put a Password on it
A simple and highly effective way of securing your Smartphone is to simply set it to require a password to unlock. Now true, some will find that entering a password everytime they want to use their phone to be a bit annoying, but that's always the case with security. You'll have to figure out for yourself where the balance between security and ease-of-use lies.
What I really like about using the BlackBerry's native password protection is that several of the phone's functions are still accessible while the phone is locked. While locked, you can still receive calls and make emergency calls. If you tick the correct box, you can make outgoing calls as well.
To set a password for your device, choose Options from the Home screen, then security, and finally password. Or you can just type (or say) password into your BlackBerry's Universal Search, then click or tap "Options" to find the one for device passwords.
Encrypt your SD Card and Device Memory
For many people, encrypting the data on your Smartphone and microSD card just isn't necessary. After all, the only things stored on my BlackBerry are my emails, a few MP3's, a cheesecake recipe, and other similar items. Additionally, constantly having to encrypt and decrypt information will slow your BlackBerry down. Still, it's not up to me to decide whether you need encryption, so here's how to do it.
From the Home screen, choose Options, then select Security and finally Encryption. There you'll find the options you need to secure the data stored on your device. It's recommended that you use a key (password) that's at least 12 characters long.
Encrypting the contents of the removable SD card is a similar but slightly different story. In a somewhat recent event, Elcomsoft showed that they could retrieve a BlackBerry password from an encrypted SD card. To that, we should add some qualifiers. First off, no software encryption is immune to a brute force attack. Simply try enough combinations of numbers, symbols, and letters, and eventually you'll get the password right. That same attack would fail on the BlackBerry Smartphone itself because you only get 10 chances to get the password correct. After that, the device performs a security wipe, destroying the data stored there.
Secondly, Elcomsoft's method would only be able to get your device's password right if you chose to encrypt your memory card with that same password. Setting the encryption mode to use a Device Key or even Device Password & Device Key effectively eliminates the possibility of someone obtaining your phone's password from an encrypted file.
Even if you're not worried about some criminal mastermind stealing your phone and using its contents to take over the world, you should install BlackBerry Protect. We've written about this highly useful program before, so I won't go into great detail. Simply put, BlackBerry Protect is great at helping you find your phone.
I have an annoying habit of leaving my Smartphone in random places about the house. Instead of searching high and low for it, I just log in to the BlackBerry Protect website and click Loud Ring. In moments, my phone is blasting out a most annoying sound that helps me to find it rather quickly.
In that unlikely event that you've totally lost your phone, BlackBerry protect also helps you to back up your data, find and map your Smartphone's GPS location, and wipe the phone's data should it prove to be irretrievable.
Security is at the heart of the BlackBerry experience; Research in Motion is after all the only Smartphone and tablet manufacturer to have received FIPS 140-2 validation for its cryptographic kernel. How you choose to use those features is completely up to you. Now that you have the know-how, how will you secure your BlackBerry?