Interviews Renew BlackBerry Encryption Debate

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by SHASH2K2, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Research In Motion (RIM) is again in the spotlight for being essentially, too secure for the tastes of some governments. The cloak-and-dagger nature of the discourse surrounding RIM's military-level email security has company executives squirming in the interview seats recently, as RIM tries to get word out about its recently released tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook.

    RIM Co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis on Wednesday abruptly ended an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) when the discussion went too far afield. BBC interviewer Rory Clellan-Jones asked Lazaridis about the "problems [RIM] has had with security."

    Lazaridis was indignant. "That's just not fair," he said. "First of all, we have no security problem. We've got the most secure platform. We've just been singled out because we're so successful around the world."

    The interview, which is posted at dot.Dot Rory (Clellan-Jones' blog), ends abruptly thereafter.

    Lazaridis' counterpart, Jim Balsillie, followed up on the topic in an interview posted today on The Wall Street Journal's website. Balsillie came equipped to talk about both the PlayBook, as well as the issue of security.

    As has been detailed in many reports to date, the problem is not that BlackBerry devices’ email security is flawed but rather that governments and regulatory agencies around the world feel the company should allow them a backdoor into users' email for security reasons.

    In January 2011, India requested access to all BlackBerry services as part of its counter-terrorist and security initiative.

    RIM responded with a statement that claimed no changes could be made to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) customers because the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM does not have access to its customers' encryption keys.

    RIM encrypts email messages as they travel between a BlackBerry and the BES. Balsillie said that the security key (there are over 250,000 of them) to decode these emails is in the hands of the organization that issues the device.

    "Absolutely every carrier in the world is subject to lawful access," Balsillie said, adding that it's "architectural," that RIM is unable to cede control of a user's email.

    To that end, Balsillie took pains to make the distinction between the roles and standing of an OEM versus those of a carrier. "Carriers are the ones who must comply with government law, and they are dealt with through the regulatory agencies in their countries," he said.

    The interviews with both Balsillie and Lazaridis seemed to highlight how touchy a subject the security debate has become for RIM. The company has been in negotiations with major world powers, such as India and countries in the Middle East.

    The BlackBerry issue has been a matter of global concern and one that straddles the privacy/security debate. In August of 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even weighed in on the matter. “We are taking time to consult and analyze the full the range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern,” Clinton said at a press conference, adding that “there is also a legitimate right of free use and access.”
     
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