​BlackBerry vows to out-do Android rivals on patching

True to form, BlackBerry will use frequent patching to distinguish its new Android Priv handset from the Android pack.

Following the Stagefright bugs revealed in July, Google has delivered monthly security patches for its own Nexus devices. While Google has always patched Nexus devices swiftly, other Android OEMs haven’t and a recent study found this situation had left nearly 90 percent of Android smartphones vulnerable.

Samsung and LG, two of the largest Android OEMs, quickly hopped on board Google’s monthly patch bandwagon, yet none of the hundreds other Android brands have followed suit.

HTC has said that committing to monthly updates was unrealistic due to hold-ups during carrier certification, reflecting the reality for many Android OEMs that are too small to be a priority for updates that carriers often deliver to end-user devices.

But not BlackBerry, which on Wednesday announced its new privacy-focussed Android Priv smartphone — a first for the struggling handset maker — would become the third to join Google’s monthly patching.

It’s unlikely that Priv will be substantial part of the 70 percent of smartphone shipments that Android represents today, but BlackBerry, with its legacy in mobile security, is promising to keep pace with Google for its Nexus devices, which some researchers believe matches the speed and coverage of Apple’s updates for different iPhone models.

The security plan for the Priv rallies around monthly security updates, “hotfix” patching and enterprise-managed updates, BlackBerry chief security officer, David Kleidermacher, outlined today in a blog post.

Kleidermacher also spelled out how Google is pressuring official Android brands to patch more regularly.

“Each month Google releases to BlackBerry and other Android OEMs a security bulletin containing a list of recently discovered Android vulnerabilities. Approximately one month later, Google exposes these in the public domain, so it is critical that BlackBerry release software in advance of public disclosure,” explained Kleidermacher.

Presumably it’s just as important for owners of other Android brands, but BlackBerry will differentiate itself by committing to monthly updates to users that have purchased PRIV through its online store.

But Blackberry also faces the same challenges as HTC in that it will still rely on carriers and Priv resellers agreeing to its monthly update commitment.

“BlackBerry will release these monthly updates to users that have purchased PRIV through shopblackberry.com and to PRIV resellers (carriers and other authorized dealers) that have agreed to participate in our regular monthly update program and facilitate rapid approval of our monthly updates for over-the-air (OTA) to subscribers,” said Kleidermacher.

BlackBerry has however gone a step further than Android rivals by making a conditional promise to deliver unscheduled patches for certain high-severity bugs.

Read more: ​The week in security: Open season on IoT, Android as executives slammed on poor security

“While BlackBerry will work with its go-to-market partners on approval and delivery of hotfixes, BlackBerry has the ability to directly patch all PRIV variants and will do so when necessary to protect users and enterprises,” said Kleidermacher.

Finally, BlackBerry will lean on BlackBerry Enterprise Service to deliver enterprise-managed updates, promising to bring back the same level of control that enterprise had with delivering OS updates to desktop PCs.

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Tags BlackberryGoogleAndroidhtclgsamsungpatchingnexussecurity patchesStagefright bugsDavid KleidermacherPrivhotfix

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