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Spooks still prefer BlackBerrys for swapping secrets

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BlackBerry is to retain its status as the government's favoured mobile device for transferring restricted information, despite the network problems that led to a widespread breakdown in its service for three days last week.

Different versions of the device have been approved for use at IL3 (restricted) level when configured and used in line with guidance from CESG, the national technical authority for information assurance, a division of GCHQ.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: "BlackBerry is still the government's favoured method of protecting the delivery of data up to IL3. There is no indication that this will change."

He also said there were no reports of any significant impact on the workings of the public sector due to last week's network disruptions.

BlackBerry devices have received CESG's approval because they encrypt messages and exchange them on a private network run by the Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion. The service effectively went down for three days last week due to a server problem at the company's UK network operations centre in Slough.

Earlier in the year CESG produced guidance for government on the use of smartphones, in which it emphasised its approval of BlackBerrys for sending IL3 information. When asked whether this could be revised, the spokesman said: "The guidance that CESG gives its customers is always responsive to changes and developments in the external marketplace, including the emergence of new threats."

He added that as new BlackBerry devices become available, they will be evaluated by CESG to ensure they meet the required standards.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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