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BlackBerry CEO: Samsung security will never be 'top-notch'

CEO Thorsten Heins tells CNET that the inherent open nature of Android make it less secure than BlackBerry.

BlackBerry Z10
The BlackBerry Z10 promises to be more secure than the competition.
Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Electronics will never be able to offer "top-notch platinum" security because of the inherent open nature of Android, according to BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins.

Because Android is open source, it is the most susceptible to attacks such as malware, Heins said yesterday in an interview with CNET in New York City. In comparison, he added, BlackBerry 10 was designed from the ground up to be a secure platform.

"You don't know how many keys you've given to the main door of your house because it's open software," he said about Android. "So what are you trying to do? You're locking the windows."

While Android has a bad rap when it comes to security, resulting in its struggles to breach the business world, Samsung is looking to turn things around. The Korean electronics giant has shifted its hefty marketing campaign to focus on the work-friendly aspects of its products, and it intends to take a larger share of the enterprise market.

Samsung, not surprisingly, sees the situation quite differently. According to Tim Wagner, vice president of enterprise sales for Samsung:

We are committed, and investing significantly, to ensure our devices can be used securely for both work and play. In the second quarter, SAFE with Knox will ship on our...Galaxy S4, which will provide consumers and companies with access to government-level, from the metal to the OS, security that includes a secure container so they can keep their work and personal lives separate. SAFE with Knox is just the beginning for us.

Samsung unveiled Knox, a security enhancement that is a part of its SAFE -- or Samsung For Enterprise -- initiative at last month's Mobile World Congress. The Galaxy S4 will be the first phone to ship with Knox.

This sounds a lot like BlackBerry's own Balance feature, which the company has long touted as a key advantage of BlackBerry 10.

Samsung previously told CNET that the business segment represents one of the key growth areas for the company. As the broader smartphone market slows, Samsung looks to keep its momentum in mobile with a bigger push in business and with tablets.

Heins said he isn't ignoring Samsung and conceded that for companies needing "good enough" security, Samsung could win contracts with more liberal bring-your-own-device plan in place. But with customers that deem security a major priority, Samsung isn't sufficient, he added with almost a dismissive attitude.

At the same time, he believes BlackBerry will be more competitive with businesses where security is a lower priority.

"I see this an opportunity for us to address a larger segment in enterprise than what we had before, which was regulated industries and top-notch security," he said.

That's what the BlackBerry Z10 is about, Heins said. Despite the BlackBerry crowd's love of the full keyboard, the company opted to launch the full touch-screen product first. That's because it wanted to prove that it could be competitive in the bring-your-own-device business and consumer element.

This is an area where BlackBerry has steadily lost share to the likes of the iPhone, which has made strong inroads in the business and government world despite Apple barely putting much effort into the area. For instance, the U.S. Department of Defense had reportedly ordered 600,000 iOS devices to better mobilize its workforce and apparently to shift away from BlackBerrys -- though that rumor was officially debunked this week by the DoD.

Where security inherently matters, Heins said he believes BlackBerry still has the advantage. He touted a contract win in which the German government ordered 5,000 new BlackBerrys.

"This platform is designed to be secure down to the OS," he said.

Updated at 10:20 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. PT to clarify the Defense Department's mobile plans and add a statement from Samsung.