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RIM speaks out on BB security


El Reg writes that the India Times writes that RIM has “blackballed” (El Reg’s words) the Indian Government’s requests to get BB keys, saying what we suspected, that there are no keys to give.

The India times says:

BlackBerry vendor Research-In-Motion (RIM) said it cannot hand over the message encryption key to the government as its security structure does not allow any ‘third party’ or even the company to read the information transferred over its network.

The full RIM letter to its customers says:

Dear Valued BlackBerry Customer:

Research In Motion (RIM) is more excited than ever to be doing business in India and is extremely pleased by the enthusiasm of Indian customers toward the BlackBerry platform.

RIM recognizes that some customers are curious about the discussions that occurred between RIM and the Indian government regarding the use of encryption in BlackBerry products and understands that the confidential nature of these discussions has consequently enabled an opportunity for a variety of speculation and misinterpretation to arise.

RIM regrets any concern prompted by incorrect speculation or rumors and wishes to assure customers that RIM is committed to continue serving security-conscious businesses in the Indian market with highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both business and government.

RIM respects the needs of governments to balance regulatory requirements alongside the corporate security and individual privacy needs of its citizens and RIM will not disclose confidential discussions that take place with any government. However, many public facts about the BlackBerry security architecture have been well established over the years and remain unchanged. A recap of these facts, along with other general industry facts, can help customers easily debunk incorrect rumors and speculation and maintain confidence about the security of their information.

  • RIM understands and respects the concerns of governments. RIM operates in over 135 countries today and provides a security architecture that has been widely scrutinized over the last nine years and has been accepted and embraced by security-conscious corporations 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).
  • The same BlackBerry security architecture is maintained in all 135+ countries where the BlackBerry solution is commercially available and it continues to be validated through various formal and independent security certifications, including FIPS-140-2 (USA), @Stake security assessment, Common Criteria EAL 2+ (International) and CAPS (United Kingdom), as well as several other independent government approvals and customer assessments.

Once again, RIM is extremely pleased by the reaction of the Indian market to the BlackBerry platform and excited about the future in India. RIM also remains positive about the ongoing use of strong encryption in enterprise-class information technologies and believes that governmental security requirements in countries around the world, including India, will continue to be achieved in tandem with the domestic and international security needs of corporate customers.

My major grumble remaining is that while RIM has been very good at some assessments (FIPS 140 and CAPS are worth something, CC is not), Those of us in the real world haven’t seen the BlackBerry architecture.

I still hear people say, “Oh, you can’t trust that because the French government banned them,” which is also FUD, but absent an open attitude about public review, is going to keep happening. My response to that FUD is to counter-FUD by pointing out that there’s no better way to spy on someone than to FUD their existing security system.

It’s worth something to know that Charlie Miller hasn’t broken the BlackBerry, but it would be better to have more to go on. Thank you for the discussing rather than ignoring this, RIM. Please, may we have another?

Photo “Indian BB” [link to no longer works] by Edlimagno [link to no longer works].

6 comments on "RIM speaks out on BB security"

  • Chris says:

    I keep reading about enterprise and corporate customers. The original article mentioned “non-corporate emails”. Does that distinction matter?

  • Brian W says:

    Mordaxus, last year I was asked by a my employer at the time to work out an estimate of the security level provided by the Blackberry system. There are some third party assessments around. An older one by @stake is here.
    And supposedly Fraunhofer in Germany has done some work, but I haven’t been able to find a public report on it.

  • Arthur says:

    Last I checked (appx 2 years ago now), non-corporate emails, aka one using the desktop redirector, were not encrypted…

  • Adam says:

    Is there a link to that, or are we speaking for RIM now, too?
    We should update the disclaimer. 🙂

  • mordaxus says:

    No, Adam, not any more, at least.
    You’re bringing up my point. It’s flattering that I got a copy of the press release. But they need to speak for themselves and have their information on the web.
    I’m done speaking for RIM; let’s just consider this encouragement and horticulture.

  • says:

    Frankly it all does not matter…
    RIM might not have access to the unencrypted messages but obtaining the key is simple enough and notice the word “strong” so basically its the same as GSM and since we all know how no one flys around listening to those signals…
    RIM dont really have much choice in the matter they did the right thing
    its the kind of thing that everyone who knows about this knows RIM and if someone really wanted to they can get at the messages and trust me NSA/U.S. navy/MI6 wants to…
    John Jones
    p.s. yes this message makes me marked but I was marked before…

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