Pakistan to Ban BlackBerry Enterprise Service Over Security Fears

Pakistan is set to ban the BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) over government concerns that state spooks can’t tap conversations made over the corporate communications platform.

The Ministry of Interior told regulator the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Friday to co-ordinate the block – instructing mobile phone companies to ensure there are no BES services available in the country from 30 November.

“The decision to block the BES was taken on the directives of the interior ministry due to security reasons,” PTA spokesperson, Khurram Mehran, told The Express Tribune.

“There was a challenge that the BlackBerry email service could not be tracked or decoded, which leads to the security reasons.”

Mehran claimed that there are fewer than 5000 BES users in Pakistan, so the decision would not cause widespread business disruption.

The more consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), however, will not be touched by the authorities, presumable because carriers can already be instructed to allow law enforcers to monitor communications made via the platform.

BES has been suspended in Pakistan before for vague “security reasons” but never banned permanently, although the PTA tried back in 2011.

The move comes as governments around the world become increasingly intolerant to strong encryption in communications products and services.

Intelligence services in the US and UK in particular are lobbying hard to force providers to build backdoors into their products so law enforcers can gain access if it is deemed necessary by a court.

Rights groups are unsurprisingly strongly opposed to such moves, and security experts have pointed out that were such backdoors built into platforms, they would eventually find their way onto the cybercrime underground, exposing businesses to the black hats.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that being able to request such access would give law enforcers a vital pre-warning in the case of attacks such as those perpetrated on Charlie Hebdo.

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