The ongoing feud between the United Arab Emirates and RIM appears to have subsided with the news that telecoms operators will continue to allow BlackBerry mobile devices to operate in the country.
A deadline had been given of October 11th for RIM to fall in line with the government’s demands over access to its servers, but it has just been announced that the BlackBerry manufacturer meets the necessary requirements.
UAE’s news network WAM announced the following:
“The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework. Therefore all Blackberry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur on October 11, 2010.”
However, quite why RIM’s device has suddenly been accepted despite no announcement from the manufacturers themselves – and previously stating that they would not change their own policy to adhere to individual international requirements – is uncertain.
“It is unclear what will have changed in the nature of the RIM service that could lead the regulator to be ‘satisfied services on the devices are now compliant with its security needs’ as has been reported when it had previously said the encryption of the BlackBerry service and the storage of data outside of the UAE’s border contravened local policy,” said Principal Analyst at Ovum, Tony Cripps.
“RIM itself has said nothing on the statement but has previously been very clear that it would not change the architecture of the BlackBerry services to placate countries who found its extremely tight security objectionable.”
With RIM seemingly holding its ground, Cripps believes that the government is monitoring traffic from within the country.
“We can only hypothesise that some kind of workaround has been agreed in terms and conditions between the UAE regulator and local carriers – and no doubt with RIM’s input – to gain access to emails sent over the BlackBerry service at a point in the delivery process that is outside of RIM’s control.”
UAE is just one of the countries including Saudi Arabia and India which have demanded access to information from RIMs servers which is deemed to be of importance with regards to national security.
The deal would not be unique however as the United States operates with a similar set-up – wherein they monitor email traffic internally.
A report said that following India’s threat to suspend Blackberry services by the 31st of August, the government’s next targets will be Skype and Google messaging services.
The Financial Times said it has seen the minutes of a meeting in mid July in which officials decided that after targeting Blackberry securely encrypted services, it will attempt to apply rules to instant messaging services offered by both Skype and Google. India is concerned that the secure encryption services incorporated in technology from RIM, from Skype and from Google may allow terrorists to plan and execute attacks free from government surveillance.
The Indian government, like the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, are concerned that RIM’s servers are located in countries like the UK and Canada and can’t be monitored by security authorities. RIM is holding out against opening up access in the way the governments have required.
Indian security expert J Prasanna reported in mid 2008 that the Indian government was eager to monitor Blackberry traffic. He said then that Skype to Skype communications all traffic is encrypted on the fly, and RSA is used for key exchange while AES is used for bulk encryption. That, he said then, “makes it almost impossible to break into the communications”.
The motives of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and India for cracking down on the Blackberry are entirely different. The first two countries are terrified that citizens can communicate with each other without being monitored by the religious police. India has fears that outrages such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks will be repeated in the future.
Other countries, including Lebanon and Algeria also want access to Research in Motion codes.
* Update The Wall Street Journal said that RIM will provide a method that will allow the Indian government to monitor messaging and email on Blackberries. Not a good sign for Google and Skype, then.
The Saudi telecommunications regulator has decided to allow Blackberry services to continue following “positive developments” with RIM over security concerns.
The pair have come to a compromise over the concerns, which for now puts a stop to the ban that the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission was threatening. This was going to go ahead last Friday but the Kingdom gave RIM a 48 hour extension to propose a fix, however, it is not yet clear whether a deal has been completely agreed.
The regulator added it was continuing to work with the country’s three mobile phone service providers and would “take the necessary steps” based on progress made.
RIM has faced the wrath of countries threatening to ban its Blackberry over the past few weeks -Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait all threatened to ban the device because RIM was not happy about sharing data with officials.
Last week Egypt also said it would look into a possible ban following fears of security. According to local Egyptian media, the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority said: “The producer received all necessary approvals to sell the phones in Egypt, but this will not prevent the devices from being banned should they indeed pose a security threat.”
The final decision on any ban will only made after further “investigation”, the reports said. As RIM seems to be bowing to the Kingdom for profit margins not morals there’s a chance it’ll strike deals to keep others sweet.
The maker of the Blackberry, RIM has given up on marketing itself as the most secure company for businesses and has decided to hand over data to any oppressive regime that asks for it.
For years the Blackberry has provided businesses with encrypted goodness through a server that was based in Canada. This meant that not only were corporate secrets safe from rivals it meant that they could not be stolen by foreign governments.
All that is set to change thanks to a deal that has been done with the United Arab Emirates which will allow for all data to be stored locally where it can be searched by Arab governments.
Reuters quoted an analyst in the Middle East as saying that placing a RIM server in a country would be similar to handing that government a “master key” to the BlackBerry.
Similar deals are expected in other countries which have a big interest in getting their paws on foreign technology under the guise of “protecting the country from terrorism”.
It looked for a while that RIM was going stand up to such countries, but it looks like the outfit has decided that making money from them is the best way forward.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly Rim’s largest market in the Middle East, with about 700,000 BlackBerry users. It is also very interested in finding out what its subjects are doing.
Lebanon, Algeria, and India have pressured Rim as well and it is likely that they will get a server too.
However some analysts feel that Rim might have made a huge mistake in bowing down to governments in foreign parts.
Its biggest customers are in the US where its security was considered its selling point. While it is allowing spooks from any country that asks to sniff its data, corporates might as well be giving employees less secure iPhones or Android phones.
Saudi Arabia is close to doing a deal with RIM over the encryption on its Blackberry handsets.
Saudi had decided to ban the Blackberry because it was so secure that the brightest encryption experts could not spy on people suspected of terrorism or cheating on their wives.
According to the AFP, now it seems that a deal is likely whereby the authorities would have access to decipher exchanged messages.
An official with one of Saudi Arabia’s three licensed mobile operators told AFP news agency that a deal had nearly been reached and his outfit was in the process of “adding the final touches.”
It seems that all Blackberry messages will be sent via a special server in the UAE as part of the deal.
One Saudi official told the Associated Press that tests were under way to see how such a server would work.
Currently Blackberry’s encrypted data is stored in Canada, which puts it out of the range of Arab spooks.
If Rim does a deal with Saudi then it is likely a similar arrangement will be sorted out in other countries which are opposed to the Blackberry such as India.
Canada’s rallying the Mounties and sending over spokespeople to chat to Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over the ban of one of its most important exports beside maple syrup and hockey, RIM’s Blackberry.
While we still don’t know what the ruddy problem is, countries worldwide have been umming and ahhing over security problems in the smartphone. RIM completely denies any security gaffe on its part and has publicly said that the problem lies in internet encryption, not in the Blackberry device, and if countries have a problem they should go ahead and shut down their internet – not ban the phone.
Shares have been dropping and the ban is looming – stock has fallen roughly 9 pecent in value since the UAE opened its trap, reports Reuters. Trade minister Peter Van Loan, who has the perfect name for setting up a rent-a-car business, said the issue could lead to “broader implications.”
He said: “Canada has been working closely with the officials at Research In Motion as well as with governments on the ground to assist them in dealing with these challenges.”
Currently the concerns are having a domino affect – with Kuwait, Egypt and India all weighing in on Blackberry.
The US has now pledged to support its meek Northern Neighbour, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who is campaigning for internet access as a basic human right – saying: “We are taking time to consult and analyse the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern, but there’s also a legitimate right of free use and access. So, I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go forward.”
State Department spokesman in the US P J Crowley has said to reporters, reports NDTV, that the US is “reaching out to those countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India and others – to understand the security concerns and see if we can work collaboratively to find solutions.”
“So that’s a process that is ongoing here at the Department of State,” he continued, “I’ve got no announcements to make at this point,” he announced.
The movement against RIM’s Blackberry has spread like wildfire to Saudi Arabia as one of the most intolerant Islamic nations in the world decided to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and forbid chat that wasn’t based in a server based in El Medina.
Saudi Arabia has joined in the generalist movement against the BlackBerry, it was reported today because its services are outside the jurisdiction of the Saudi state, generally considered to be one of the most backward states in the world, despite its oil wealth.
The dictators/warlords in the country endorsed UAE decisions last month to disable features in the CrackBerry that let people “share information with each other”.
Sharing information is the very very last thing Saudi Arabia wants.
At press time, it was unclear whether the Wahaabi fundamentalists, headed up by a set of monarchs and sheikhs which most scholars believe are largely ignorant of Islam, had trundled every RIM CrackBerry down to “chop chop” square, and beheaded men and women daring to share information via mobile phones.
Saudi Arabia, according to the CIA World Fact Book, is a fundamentalist kingdom. Only people over 21 years of age and who are male can vote. The monarchy is based on male succession. There are no political parties apart from the diktat of the king.
There is quite a lot of controversy worldwide, amongst Islamic scholars, whether the birthplace of Mohammad, god bless his name, should be controlled by a gang of ignorant Wahaabis, read wannabees.
The big question, of course, is why democratic governments allow this to happen. The answer is not only just oil. Saudi is considered to be a “stable” influence on the rest of the Caliphate, although we’re not entirely sure Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and the African Islamic states would agree.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has followed Gulf state Bahrein and claimed that Research in Motion’s Blackberry is a security risk for the country.
Bahrein’s problem with the Blackberry centred around people using a chat application on the phones to share local news. In early April, Bahrein threatened to prosecute people who used the application.
The UAE appears to have the same concerns and said in a statement yesterday that the RIM phone was outside the jurisdiction of its laws. Some Blackberry apps let people cause “serious social, judicial and national security repercussions”.
No political parties are allowed within the UAE, which has an electoral college appointed by rulers of the seven emirates. Its legal system is based on both Islamic Sharia law and civil courts.
The UAE’s news agency said: “The introduction of Blackberry in the UAE in 2006 pre-dates the 2007 introduction of the UAE’s Safety, Emergency and National Security legislation, which regulates Blackberry applications in the UAE.”
The Blackberry, it continues, is the only device operating in the UAE that exports its data offshore and managed by a foreign commercial outfit.
“Certain Blackberry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions.” The statement didn’t elaborate on what these repercussions are.
A report in the Peoples’ Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, indicates that the country is getting paranoid about the USA again.
The article, sourced to China Daily, claims that the latest deal between Taiwan and the US to buy Patriot missile systems is the “key part of a US strategic encirclement of China in the East Asian region”.
Japan, South Korea, the UAE and Germany have also bought these systems but it’s somewhat specious to suggest that Germany and the United Arab Emirates could be considered to be any part of an encirclement.
The article quotes an air force colonel Dai Xu as saying that the ring begins in Japan, goes through nations in the South China Sea to India, and ends in Afghanistan. Another “expert” claims the US anti-missile system near China replicates its strategy in Eastern Europe.
Washington also wants to sell Patriots to India, according to the Peoples’ Daily, here.