Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Much Ado About Blackberry Circa 2010

Slated to be banned in some countries due to still unresolved security concerns, will this eventually make RIM’s Blackberry to be consigned to the mobile phone / computer’s dustbin of history?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since Research in Motion (RIM) rolled out their first generation Blackberry back in 1999, early adapters hailed it as the mobile telecommunications revolution for the new millennium. Security and privacy concerns – including the odd Y2K bug issue or two – back then were more often than not, relegated to the backburner. Fast forward to the scheduled August 5, 2010 launch of the latest Blackberry model called the Torch, will security concerns cited by conservative Gulf Region Islamic states eventually relegate the use of such devices to more libertine locales?

The first high-profile row over the security concerns of RIM’s Blackberry got major press coverage when several units were eventually found out to been used in the tragic November 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks. Then the issue inextricably was forgotten once again. Fast forward to July 2010 when once again the UAE government – specifically the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, UAE - threatens to ban the use of RIM’s Blackberry on their home soil unless RIM allows their local law enforcement agencies access to the heavily encrypted instant messages being trafficked by such devices. Saudi Arabia too threatens to ban Blackberry use by Friday, August 6, 2010 if their local law enforcement agencies were not allowed access to the encrypted instant messaging data. But are the concerns of UAE and Saudi Arabian law enforcement agencies over encrypted Blackberry instant messages warranted?

Given the conservative nature of such states which rank adultery and premarital fornication about as serious as armed robbery, the encrypted nature of RIM’s Blackberry’s instant messaging feature has long been the thorn in the side of the various Gulf States’ local “morality police”. It is because – more often than not – Blackberrys and similar devices – were often used as private messaging systems that enables some to engage in clandestine adulterous trysts. Given the local police in conservative Gulf States don’t have access to heavily encrypted Blackberry data, which are the sole corporate property of Research in Motion, the Saudi and UAE governments are crying foul over their inability to penalize widespread acts of adultery committed on their home soil.

When it comes to the individual user’s security issue, Blackberry is widely used for some years now in China, Canada and the United States – all are very security conscious countries who has yet to find major security concerns for such devices. A lot of high-profile government officials also use RIM’s Blackberry including US President Barack Obama and as of late, they seem to find the security of their Blackberry adequate. Even though this can be use as proof that on a global level Research in Motion’s Blackberry are one of the world’s most secure mobile phone providers, this does pose a problem to governments who want’s to play a more “Big Brother” role over their citizenry. Dubai may plan to ban their local Blackberry’s instant messaging (IM) and e-mail services, but it could prove devastating to their supposedly business friendly territory when corporate entities reliant on such devices may leave in droves due to the inconvenience. An inconvenience that’s not economically viable in the already fiscally austere post global credit crunch climate of 2010.