I Spy: Two Ways Enterprises Can Secure Their Communication in the Surveillance Age


Hacker typing on a laptop with binary code in background

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve moved past the Information Age – we’re now living in the Surveillance Age. Marketers want our personal information to fine-tune their campaigns. Companies want our personal information to build demographic data. And governments want… well, that kind of depends.

When tales of espionage circulate in the news, it’s too easy – and perhaps more comforting – to think of each incident as an isolated one. Unfortunately, on the global stage, every country has some form of spying program in place. And privacy isn’t the only thing you need to worry about.

This past July, the FBI uncovered hundreds of different espionage cases targeting United States businesses. According to the agency, the government responsible is targeting the US as never before, sending state-sponsored black hats to break into the networks of overseas corporations. And they aren’t interested in stealing social security numbers or personal emails.

No, they’re after something with a far greater payoff.

A climate of corporate espionage

According to The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris: “When [these] hackers or spies make off with companies’ pricing data, secret formulas or software code, they’re giving it to overseas companies to give them an unfair advantage in the global marketplace.”

phone-spy“Many nations eavesdrop, each for their own reasons,” writes Technology Review’s Antonio Regalado. “Some target dissidents with malware to watch their keystrokes. Others also bleed companies of intellectual secrets about jet fighters and wind turbines. So pervasive and successful has digital espionage become that in 2012, Keith Alexander, the Army general in charge of the NSA, described it as ‘the greatest transfer of wealth in history.’ He estimated that US companies lose $250 billion a year to intellectual property theft.”

In light of all the buzz floating around about surveillance, many businesses are understandably nervous about outsourcing or working outside their country. After all, if government bodies are willing to so brazenly send intelligence agencies after the intellectual property of other countries, it stands to reason that they’d be more than willing to listen in on conferences, intercept messages and eavesdrop on phone calls. In such a nation, even something as innocuous as a brief chat between executives could result in a leak.

The problem here is that modern enterprise operates on a global scale. Businesses work with third-party vendors and contractors. They send employees all over the world and collaborate across continents and oceans. Those employees need to be able to use the tools they’ve been given for their jobs – they need to be able to use their laptops, smartphones and tablets without fear.

In order to do that, the security on an organization’s unified communications system needs to be iron-clad.

The case for secure communication

To be fair, eavesdropping has always been a concern in unified communications. It’s just that recently, the looming issue of global surveillance has positioned that problem front and center. Rather than having to be wary of some black hats looking to make a quick buck, businesses must defend themselves against entire agencies that seek to steal their secrets – rival organizations and other governments alike.

“UC endpoints, whether desktops, laptops or IP phones – not really phones but rather computers with specialized user interfaces – all connect to the data network and can be tapped by compromising the network anywhere along the data route,” explains John Burke of Nemertes Research. “Moreover, it has become possible with hard or softphones, once they are compromised, to have their conferencing or handset/headset microphones activated without being taken off the hook.

“This enables remote eavesdropping on private conversations taking place in person, and often behind closed doors,” he adds.

In order to protect against corporate espionage, your business needs to bake encryption into all of its communications tools – instant messaging in particular. More importantly, it needs to do so without inconveniencing the people who use it.

The power of protected messaging and secure voice


BBM Enterprise guards instant messages with enterprise-grade encryption

Blackberry offers two solutions to enable secure communication within your organization.

The first is BBM Enterprise (formerly known as BBM Protected), the perfect solution for businesses looking for the productivity of instant messaging without compromising security. With it, administrators can easily manage and control the flow of information through their organization, and employees are protected without being inconvenienced. In addition to guarding messages with enterprise-grade encryption, it offers a full suite of consumer chat features, an intuitive administration panel, seamless integration with most enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms, and the ability to extend encryption to non BBM-protected users.

You can’t just encrypt your instant messages, however – you also need to protect voice communication against eavesdropping. And that’s where SecuSUITE for Enterprise comes in.

SecuSuite encrypts voice messages

SecuSUITE protects voice messages with encryption

A platform- and OS-agnostic software-based solution, SecuSUITE secures both calls and text messages on mobile devices, leveraging the same encryption technology trusted by governments to protect state secrets. Better yet, it’s both convenient and easy-to-manage, integrating readily into existing systems and requiring no additional servers or hardware to run. Check out the brochure or data sheet on our SlideShare channel.

By utilizing both BBM Enterprise and SecuSUITE for Enterprise, your organization can truly secure its mobile arm without breaking its budget, frustrating its end users or stymieing its administrators.

It’s an unavoidable fact that modern businesses operate in a global economy. It’s also a hard fact that, in the course of doing so, yours will encounter hackers and spies. In order to ensure your employees are still able to communicate and collaborate in the face of these security threats, you need to provide them with a secure platform on which to do so.

Otherwise, just about anyone could be listening in.

About Nicholas C. Greene

Nicholas C. Greene is a technology writer based in Calgary, Canada. An English graduate of the University of Calgary, he's written for publications and organizations such as VPN Haus, Streetwise, Northcutt, and The Coolist.

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