United Arab Emirates Views BlackBerry Smartphones As A Possible Security Risk

July 26, 2010 | By | 1 Comment

You know this isn’t the first time you’ve seen the UAE in the tabloids and news. The last time was over the Etisalat incident, the very one Smobile Systems had found and evaluated. This time it’s about data overseas and the inability to control where their laws aren’t applicable. Analysts are stating it could be difficult for authorities to monitor use because of this. Check it out…

I’ll go over briefly what happened last. Over a year ago the UAE state-owned mobile operator Etisalat told the company’s BlackBerry users (over 145,000 of them) to install software they deemed as an upgrade. The upgrade was required to bring service enhancements for supposed battery drain. But that wasn’t the case. It turns out that Etilasat had the assistance of a US -based software firm, SS8, which assists to monitor and prevent criminal activity. This led to a stealth application that could intercept communication. The “upgrade” turned out to be spyware which gave the ability for someone to access private information stored on the phones. The spyware could be activated by an email message. Once the command was sent and received, it would be deleted and the app would begin to listen for incoming email messages which it would intercept. But here’s what happened. At registration the app overloaded the registration server, causing it to shut down and battery life quickly diminished for the users. RIM quickly found the issue and addressed it by giving instructions to the users on how to remove the spyware.

According to an article from the readingeagle.com, Associated Press writer Adam Schreck wrote in detail about the situation. The UAE is a federation of seven heriditary states. They currently censor websites and media they believe is harmful to the national security and local values. Basically they say authorities don’t have access to information on a BlackBerry as they do for a local operator’s device.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority fears that the BlackBerry can manage data in a way that allows misuse. They are concerned that not only do the local laws not apply, but that they are managed by a foreign commercial organization. Really and truly what it boils down to is they don’t like the idea that users have the right to use their phones and ability to do so without worrying about the security of their own personal information. It must be a worry as they feel they needed to encourage the download of spyware to monitor it.

There are other countries who have shown concern as well including Bahrain and Indian government securities. One of their largest concerns is the BlackBerry Messenger which is even more of a challenge to monitor, more so than any types of communication. I don’t know about you, but I like knowing that the BlackBerry Messenger is secure. Many contractors and military personnel rely on the BBM overseas to keep in contact with their families and share photos and thoughts. Knowing their information isn’t easily accessed is a relief.

I suppose in a country where they have complete control over everything, including the way a woman dresses, the idea that they can’t monitor is the issue. Not that it’s a security risk because the only security risk they’ve had at this point is the one they themselves encouraged as an update. We should be thankful to live in a country where we can use our BlackBerry as we want, and able to communicate. It doesn’t make sense to me that they would consider the BlackBerry a threat to security when its one of the most if not the most secure device. RIM has stood by in defending its security. Its the one thing both consumers and enterprises embrace. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions to share?

[via: readingeagle.com]

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