Blackberry Security: Another victim of London Riots?
THE bleeding-heart liberals among us are worried that the backlash to the London Riots will usher in a harsher police state and that tolerance will get swept out with the broken glass. Let me just put in a techie’s plea for something else in danger of getting pushed aside: the security of Blackberry Messenger. It’s a small thing yes, but it’s important.
Blamed for helping kids to organise the London Riots – BBM is Blackberry’s instant messaging service – allowing for fast, secure group chat. Good for company communications, good for people organising a trip to the cinema, good for a bunch of miscreants trying to rob Curry’s. BBM’s good design makes it popular, but a key feature of the service is its security – all messages are sent scrambled then reassembled at the other end – making it much harder to hack or tap the phones. The security of Blackberry is why businesses and celebrities like them so much. Corporate features like BES email make it even more secure – routing all web traffic through Blackberry’s servers in North America.
But following the widespread asssociation of the messaging service with the London riots, it seems that Blackberry are starting to cave in and have offered to cooperate with police in hunting out looters. The company have been put under pressure before to comply with governments, but usually refused: which has led to the handsets being banned or partly disabled in India and parts of China.
The Guardian says:
“RIM can be legally ordered to hand over details to police of users suspected of unlawful activity. However, the Canadian company would be likely to resist those demands and the content of users’ inflammatory messages would be encrypted. The manufacturer has previously insisted that even it cannot unscramble users’ messages when sent on the devices”
With the widespread disgust at the riots we’re in danger of retracting some of the basic rights to privacy. I know it was three weeks ago, but let’s not forget the phone hacking scandal. The police’s record on personal information is less than exemplary.