Not any more

RIM allows India access to encrypted BlackBerry messages

In Canada on August 13, 2010 at 19:37

Reports that BlackBerry’s Canadian maker has agreed to provide India with tools to read its encrypted data did not come as a surprise to industry watchers on Friday.

India is one of the most, if not the most, lucrative countries for Research In Motion right now and key to the company’s global expansion, said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst in London, Ont.

"India is an absolute gold mine," he said. "They can’t afford to say no."

As competitors eat into RIM’s once-dominant share of the North American smartphone market, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company has had to look abroad for opportunities to grow.

During the last fiscal year, 37 per cent of RIM’s $15 billion in revenue came from outside North America, up from 23 per cent about five years ago.

"They’ve put all their eggs in the global-expansion basket," Levy said.

Citing anonymous sources, the Reuters News Agency reported Friday that RIM had agreed to give India access to encrypted corporate emails and messaging services.

India had threatened to shut down those services if RIM didn’t comply.

The move comes on the heels of another deal reported earlier this week between RIM and Saudi Arabia that would see the company give up codes for its BlackBerry Messenger users.

"I suspect that you will start to see a string of countries announcing that they have reached a deal for some sort of access to BlackBerry data," said Joe Compeau, an information systems expert at the University of Western Ontario.

The United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Algeria have also approached RIM about getting keys to the company’s security kingdom.

In a way, RIM has become a victim of its own security prowess, experts say.

The company’s robust end-to-end encryption means that as soon as a message is sent it’s scrambled into a bunch of gobbledygook until it is received.

While that’s good for consumers, it’s proven frustrating for some foreign countries. Those countries have said they want to be able to decode such information to combat terrorism and for internal security reasons, but it’s likely that some of them just want to be able to snoop on their citizens, Levy said.

RIM has reportedly been trying to reassure its corporate clients in recent days about the security of their email services. But Levy said Canadians who do business in some of these overseas countries may now have to start being a little more guarded about the information they dispatch using their wireless devices.

"When you travel abroad, you’re always subject to local law. Those protections of privacy and confidentiality that we take for granted here simply don’t exist there," he said.

Levy said corporate IT buyers may now also think twice about going with RIM products.

"Many consumers bought BlackBerry with the assumption that the platform was inviolable. The fact that they’re negotiating (with some countries), that assumption is no longer in place," he said.

Here in Canada, the average BlackBerry user probably doesn’t have much to worry about, experts say. A monumental engineering and academic feat is still needed to intercept BlackBerry transmissions and unscramble data.

And if Canadian police or government agencies want to access that data, they still have to go to court and get a warrant.

With files from Reuters

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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