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RIM can make data more accessible, but its a risky move

05 августа 2010

Although Research In Motion Ltd. said that no "back door" exists that would allow RIM or a third party to gain unauthorized access to corporate data sent to and from the device, that doesn't mean one can't be built.

However, mobile-security experts say such a move, which would placate foreign governments seeking access to BlackBerry traffic, could damage RIM's gold-standard reputation for security among smartphone vendors.

RIM, of Waterloo, Ont., uses a symmetric key system to encrypt data on the Blackberry. Customers creates their own encryption keys and no one, not RIM or a wireless carrier, ever possesses a copy, RIM said in its statement. Data transmitted to and from the device are encrypted at all points of transfer, RIM said.

To subvert the system, RIM could install software on the device, or on a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, that could copy encryption keys and send them to interested governments, said John Pescatore, analyst at Gartner. RIM could "build backdoors" to their software, he said.

RIM could also create a back-up encryption key that could be provided to a government upon request, said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and computer science at Harvard University. "So, you can be completely secure but RIM will hold in a vault the back-up key and if...a government gives a request, then RIM can accommodate it by using the back-up key," he said.

RIM late Tuesday issued a new statement, saying it has never provided a unique deal to any country. "There is only one BlackBerry enterprise solution available to our customers around the world and it remains unchanged in all of the markets we operate in," the statement said. "Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries, are unfounded."

RIM's security protocols emerged as an issue over the weekend after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India expressed concerns about the Blackberry's security architecture. The UAE went so far as to announce plans to ban BlackBerry email, instant-messaging and Web-browsing services, citing concerns that BlackBerry-data traffic is exported to RIM servers offshore and thus is beyond control of the UAE government and legal system. The ban is due to go into effect Oct. 11.

Late Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's telecom watchdog said it will stop all BlackBerry services Friday as they don't meet its regulatory requirements. The Communication and Information Technology Commission, or CITC, has given the service providers three-month notice to meet its requirements, it said in a statement, but it did not elaborate on the nature of these requirements.

The Indian government last week expressed renewed concerns about its inability to monitor data on the devices, while Saudi Arabia ordered telecom operators to block RIM's BlackBerry Messenger service later this month.

RIM has held extensive discussions with India's Department of Telecommunications, a DoT official told Dow Jones Tuesday. The official didn't confirm a report in The Economic Times newspaper that RIM agreed to allow Indian security agencies to monitor its BlackBerry services.

Gartner's Pescatore said security is a key selling point for RIM, and an area where it continues to enjoy an advantage over Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Google Inc.'s Android-operating system. RIM could alienate customers if it allows governments to monitor BlackBerry traffic, he said. And that risk could be greater than the risk of standing up to foreign governments even if that means those governments block BlackBerry sales, he added.

Whatever RIM ends up doing, greater transparency is required, Harvard's Zittrain said. "RIM is kind of winging it," he said."They're coming up with ad hoc accommodations one government at a time, the outcome of which is not announced, and at some point it's a disservice to their customers not to let them know the circumstances under which data will be exposed."

On Nasdaq Tuesday, RIM closed down $1.45, or 2.5%, to $55.53 on 30 million shares. The decline came on a day when RIM unveiled its much anticipated Blackberry Torch. The device includes a touch screen and slide-out keyboard, RIM's first hybrid device. The Torch also includes BlackBerry 6, the newest version of RIM's operating system, which revamps the user interface on the device and adds a speedy new Web browser.

RIM's stock had climbed about 7% since July 27 in anticipation of the announcement so Tuesday's decline may reflect a sell-on-news mindset, one analyst said.

Источник: Total Telecom

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