RIMifications of the BlackBerry bans

05 Aug 2010

The ban-the-BlackBerry bandwagon rolls on.

Today it’s the Indonesian authorities who, according to the Jakarta Post the and Associated Press have decided the device is a security threat.

The Saudis have definitely banned it, the Gulf states are planning to and RIM is in a long wrestle with the Indian government.

The issue is RIM’s architecture, in which all messages go through its North American-based servers, and its encryption.

RIM has denied that it has offered a deal to open up the encryption or that it plans to set up proxy servers in some countries.

Indeed, it has said it cannot open up the data on its servers because only the customers have the encryption keys. That is its key selling point for business users.

In a feisty interview with the Wall Street Journal today, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said data encryption is routine online.

“Everything on the internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the internet, they should shut it off.”

He also accused governments of using BlackBerry to score political points. There’s some evidence from Saudi Arabia and the UAE that suggests that.

Yet whatever their motives, it is odd that this issue has suddenly emerged now, a decade after the first BlackBerry was launched.

For that time security-obsessed governments in China, Russia and the US – to name a few - have been clearly comfortable with this terrorist tool at large.

The US, which spends $75 billion a year on homeland security weighed in through a State Department spokesman on the side of “the free flow of information” when the story broke this week.

I’m willing to bet that the spokesman had an encrypted $300 BlackBerry in his pocket.

I’m also willing to bet that either the NSA is breaking RIM’s code or the Canadian firm helps US security agencies track data sent through its system.

In other words, BlackBerry isn’t as secure as RIM would like us to believe. Or it truly is the device of choice for jihadists.

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