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Blackberry security explained

Blackberry security explained

What kind of access do US authorities get to BlackBerry messages that Saudi, the UAE and India don’t? Is it even possible to monitor encrypted messages?


August 12, 2010 4:54 by

Q. Saudi Arabia, India and the UAE have complained that RIM won’t give them the access they need to tap into BlackBerry messaging networks so they can protect their national security interests. They say that RIM grants such access to other countries, including the United States. What kind of access does the U.S. government enjoy?

A. U.S. authorities can seek a court order to tap BlackBerry traffic, giving them access to messages sent over the network. Officials with Research in Motion declined to talk about how they provide such access. It is possible that the government provides such requests directly to RIM’s customers.

Q. Is RIM refusing to give Saudi Arabia, India and the UAE that kind of access?

A. It is unclear. Nobody is talking specifics, with one exception: In the case of Saudi Arabia, the government says it only wants access to RIM’s consumer-focused BlackBerry Messenger service. A spokesperson for RIM did not respond to a request for information on how the company secures that particular service.

Q. If the data is encrypted, how is it possible for the government or RIM to even install a wire tap?

A. Bruce Schneier, an expert in encryption who is chief security technology officer for BT, said that it is relatively simple. Authorities need to put an eavesdropping box on the BlackBerry server, whether run by RIM itself or one of its customers, that has the key for descrambling the messages.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Frank McGurty.)

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