Research In Motion just sent me an outline of their position regarding the United Arab Emirates’ ban of BBM, browser, and e-mail BlackBerry data, although it’s mostly in general terms since they can’t discuss ongoing negotiations. RIM is still somewhat defensive, however, stating that governments should have the tools necessary to fulfill their own security standards without compromising commercial ones, and that customers shouldn’t worry about the security of their data. RIM also says that they conform to regulatory requirements, however, and as such we can only assume that they’re still talking with officials about the situation, despite the impending lockdown.
The UAE ban will kick in on October 11, as after three years of talking with RIM about complying with local security standards, no solution has been found. The problem is that data is encrypted as it runs through the carriers and the Network Operations Center overseas, so government authorities can’t intercept conversations revolving around illegal activities. India was in a similar position awhile back, but that eventually panned out fine without RIM giving in to the government’s demands, and RIM has made inroads with China, which known for especially stringent communications controls.
While I can understand the UAE’s worry about what people use BBM for (as useful in crime as everyday corporate stuff), the fact that such a blockage on BlackBerry data will extend over visitors too will put a sizeable dent into Dubai’s wounded but slowly-recovering tourism industry, nevermind the implications for local businesses. For further related reading, take a look at this post that shows the reactions to the ban from locals.
Here’s the full statement – take from it what you will.
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.