Blackberry wants to make your smart speaker more secure

Amazon's Echo Dot
(Image credit: Image Credit: John Tekeridis / Pexels)

Are you worried about your smart speaker listening in on your private conversations? Or shared your private data with third parties? Blackberry could have an answer, with an announcement at CES 2019 in Las Vegas that it will license its Blackberry Secure technology to smart device manufacturers.

The company was prompted to share its technology after it found “80% of consumers in the UK, US, and Canada do not trust their current Internet-connected devices to secure their data and privacy.”

From today, manufacturers will have the choice of three feature packs from Blackberry that are designed to address these security and privacy concerns, including the Secure Enablement Feature Pack. This pack injects a Blackberry Secure Identity Service Key into the hardware itself, which is recorded on a secure server and connects to the company’s Network Operation Center. 

This key is checked at launch and periodically throughout the product’s lifecycle, to ensure the hardware key has not changed from the key originally recorded to the secure server. If the two keys do not match, the device no longer starts up.

Any products that use the new feature packs will be verified by Blackberry, with successful products deemed ‘Blackberry Secure’, giving consumers a clear signal that the product is verified as secure by a third party.

The Apple HomePod smart speaker

The Apple HomePod smart speaker

Unclear criteria

Alex Thurber, SVP and General Manager of Mobility Solutions at BlackBerry explains: “IoT device manufacturers can address security and privacy concerns head-on and stand out in the cluttered IoT space by bringing to market ultra-secure products that consumers, retailers, and enterprises want to buy and use.”

“This new service is a pivotal point in the company’s software licensing strategy and underscores BlackBerry’s evolution from providing the most secure smartphones to delivering the trusted security for all smart ‘things’.”

Blackberry hasn’t revealed its criteria for verifying smart products – so, while Blackberry may say a smart speaker has an acceptable level of security, consumers are still in the dark about just how much of their private data is collected and potentially shared. 

Data privacy and security is a growing concern for consumers with smart devices. In October 2018, Facebook was forced to admit that its flagship video chat devices, the Portal and Portal + listen in on video calls, with the social media giant potentially using the information for ad targeting. 

While it’s not clear how many manufacturers will buy into Blackberry’s Secure technology, it’s apparent that consumers are increasingly paying attention to the type of data their smart devices collect.

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Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.