blackberry_bannedRecent news reports that BlackBerry has been banned in the UAE, a country of some 7 million souls on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, opposite Iran.

Apparently, this is based on some misconception that there ought to be a BlackBerry proxy server in the country so that the government can intercept or force the intercept of email or instant message services. However, to do so would be completely useless because BlackBerry secure mobile email doesn’t work like that. The mere presence of a proxy server merely slows down the transmission of customers’ messages, and the government has complete control over the IP distribution network of the local mobile operator anyways.

The content of messages are encrypted at the BES on the enterprise premise adjacent to the email server using strong [[PKI]] public-private keys and then delivered to the addressed BlackBerry in encrypted form where it can only be decrypted by the destination BlackBerry, which uses its private key. RIM nor its mobile operator partner have or can offer a mechanism where a law enforcement, national security or censorship authority for that matter, can read the message or a copy of the message.

This is not the first dispute of BlackBerrys and governments in the Islamic world. This article reviews the impacts of blackouts and censorship on BlackBerry users in Pakistan.

I wonder what’s really behind this senseless instance of abusive government power?

Here’s the company’s response to ally customer fears:

August 2, 2010

Dear Valued BlackBerry Customer:

Due to recent media reports, Research In Motion (RIM) recognizes that some customers are curious about the discussions that occur between RIM and certain governments regarding the use of encryption in BlackBerry products. RIM also understands that the confidential nature of these discussions has consequently given rise to speculation and misinterpretation.

RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers. While RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments.

Many public facts about the BlackBerry Enterprise Server security architecture have been well established over the years and remain unchanged. A recap of these facts, along with other general industry facts, should help our customers maintain confidence about the security of their information.

  • RIM operates in over 175 countries today and provides a security architecture that is widely accepted by security conscious customers and governments around the world.
  • Governments have a wide range of resources and methodologies to satisfy national security and law enforcement needs without compromising commercial security requirements.
  • The use of strong encryption in wireless technology is not unique to the BlackBerry platform. Strong encryption is a mandatory requirement for all enterprise-class wireless email services.
  • The use of strong encryption in information technology is not limited to the wireless industry. Strong encryption is used pervasively on the Internet to protect the confidentiality of personal and corporate information.
  • Strong encryption is a fundamental requirement for a wide variety of technology products that enable businesses to operate and compete, both domestically and internationally.
  • The BlackBerry security architecture was specifically designed to provide corporate customers with the ability to transmit information wirelessly while also providing them with the necessary confidence that no one, including RIM, could access their data.
  • The BlackBerry security architecture for enterprise customers is based on a symmetric key system whereby the customer creates their own key and only the customer ever possesses a copy of their encryption key. RIM does not possess a “master key”, nor does any “back door” exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party to gain unauthorized access to the key or corporate data.
  • The BlackBerry security architecture for enterprise customers is purposefully designed to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances. RIM would simply be unable to accommodate any request for a copy of a customer’s encryption key since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator, ever possess a copy of the key.
  • The BlackBerry security architecture was also purposefully designed to perform as a global system independent of geography. The location of data centers and the customer’s choice of wireless network are irrelevant factors from a security perspective since end-to-end encryption is utilized and transmissions are no more decipherable or less secure based on the selection of a wireless network or the location of a data center. All data remains encrypted through all points of transfer between the customer’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the customer’s device (at no point in the transfer is data decrypted and re-encrypted).


RIM assures customers that it will not compromise the integrity and security of the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution.

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