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Middle East BlackBerry security problems "a national security issue" claims RIM's co-CEO

14 April 2011

In a fascinating - and revealing - interview with Research in Motion's co-CEO Mike Lazardis, he called the ongoing problems with BlackBerry security in the Middle East a national security issue for the US, before abruptly terminating the session with the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones.

The interview, which was recorded with the BBC' technology correspondent for the BBC Click TV series, comes against a backdrop of alleged increasing pressure by governments in India and the Middle East for RIM to allow BlackBerry calls to be monitored by their government agencies.

Canadian firm RIM has always taken the firm line that governments - and other agencies - should not have the ability to monitor calls and data sessions made to and from BlackBerry handsets.

As reported previously by Infosecurity, this stance has not gone down well with some governments, notably India and the Middle East, who have temporarily blocked the use of BlackBerry handsets on their networks and triggered some frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Against this backdrop, Lazardis was asked by the BBC about RIM's problems in India and the Middle East, "where governments want to gain greater access to the tight security system used for Blackberry's business users."

"Lazaridis responded by saying the question was unfair, and that the interview was over", said the BBC's news pages last night.

The most interesting aspect of the interview, however, appears right at the end when Lazardis calls the topic "a national security issue" hinting that the US may be taking an active interest in RIM's issues in India and the Middle East.

It has been known for some time that the US and UK governments operate a voice and IP surveillance network called Echelon and use their surveillance of each other's networks to side-step national anti-snooping legislation.

However, Lazardis' obvious discomfort suggests that the US government may well be taking part in the discussions with Indian and Middle Eastern governments, over whether they, too, should be allowed access to network eavesdropping technology.

If so, this situation could explain why the RIM co-CEO was so obviously uncomfortable with Cellan-Jones' questions, especially coming hard on the heels of reports that the BlackBerry is viewed as secure enough for GCHQ and UK government agencies.

This article is featured in:
Wireless and Mobile Security

 

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