John Chen, Blackberry, Code Conference

Asa Mathat

General


What’s good enough for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reportedly one of the most high-profile NSA hacking victims, is good enough for BlackBerry.

Wireless device company BlackBerry said it reached a deal to acquire Secusmart, a wireless security company based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen announced the deal during a speech at a company event in New York. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Secusmart specializes in voice and data encryption and is responsible for encrypting the communications on the smartphone belonging to Merkel. Hans-Christoph Quelle, managing director of Secusmart, said at the New York event that he wants to extend the company’s capabilities to “every president, chancellor and head of state” around the world.

Quelle portrayed voice security as an important and essentially unsolved problem on wireless phones. “It is easy to listen in and it is easy to make a transcription of voice calls,” he said. “If you make a call while traveling overseas I guarantee you that someone is listening in.”

Recall that Merkel’s phone has gotten a lot of attention in the last year or so after documents revealed by Edward Snowden suggested the U.S. National Security Agency had been tapping Merkel’s phone for years.

According to the German magazine Der Speigel, Merkel was an NSA surveillance target beginning in about 2002 and continued to be one until at least as recently as June 2013 when President Obama visited that country.

Sometime in July of 2013, she is said to have started using a BlackBerry Z10 equipped with Secusmart’s voice and data encryption technology.

And though Secusmart had been contracted by the German government to secure its devices as far back as 2009, a spokesman said its encryption technology in its various guises and in devices used by Merkel has never been hacked by the NSA.

Responding to questions about this last October, Quelle said in a prepared statement dated October 24, 2013: “The way it looks now, the problem for the Chancellor was simply too many phones — as is the case for many people in high up positions — she used different phones to communicate with different parties. The high security solution from Secusmart for secure communication within the government was not affected. We live up to the highest technical standards. We, of course, can’t guarantee the security of unencrypted calls, text messages or emails lacking the Secusmart solution.”

Here’s a video segment on Secusmarts’s deal with the German goverment below. (It’s in German.)

In an op-ed about the deal for CNBC.com, Chen called the deal a “strategic move” and said it will provide “another important tool for enterprises to combat the type of threats that are becoming more common such as electronic eavesdropping and data theft.”

BlackBerry shares initially rose less than one percent in premarket trading after the news was announced, but they fell by more than one percent after the markets opened.



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