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Germany bans BlackBerrys and iPhones on snooping fears

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The German government has advised ministers not to use BlackBerry and iPhone devices due to “a dramatic increase of attacks against” its networks.

A general ban on the use of smartphones in certain German ministries is also being considered, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière confirmed to the country’s business daily newspaper Handelsblatt yesterday.

He said that ministers and senior civil servants had been told to instead use Simko2 gadgets offered by T-Systems, following advice from the German federal office for information security (BSI).

Berlin expressed concern that data for the BlackBerry smartphone passes through two Research in Motion centres in the UK and Canada.

De Maizière added that there was a possible risk of “political IT attacks” from organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies and said that such harm to the government could increase with the use of the BlackBerry and other smartphones.

"The BlackBerry infrastructure is a closed proprietary system. [But] the access standard to our networks must be determined by the government and not by a private company," he told the newspaper.

His comments came after Canada-based RIM was forced to shift servers to Saudi Arabia after that country briefly banned use of the BlackBerry.

Government officials in the United Arab Emirates also threatened to restrict the BlackBerry service.

De Maizière added that the German ministry was first advised to avoid using BlackBerry and iPhone devices in November 2009. The spotlight is now on Germany, following concerns in Saudia Arabia and the UAE where security services complained they were not given access to RIM's servers. ®

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