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UAE unbans BlackBerrys

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The United Arab Emirates has cancelled the planned ban on RIM's BlackBerry service, saying that it no longer represents a threat to national security, but not explaining why.

The ban had been scheduled to start on Monday, but the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has now decided against implementing the ban as "Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework".

That means the half-million BlackBerry users in the UAE will stay connected next week, along with visiting tourists and businessmen, apparently subject to the scrutiny of local law enforcement - though we don't know how, as RIM isn't saying.

Intercepting web browsing, instant messaging and mail hosted by RIM is relatively easy, as one catches the data at the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). But if the customer is running their own BES then one is forced to intercept communications between the handset and the BES - impractical given the strength of encryption involved.

The rescinded ban means that RIM has either managed to convince the UAE government that terrorists are unlikely to be running their own BES, or that the company has provided some sort of back door into handsets or BES servers. The latter seems unlikely, so we'd bet money on the former.

More important, to RIM, is if it can convince India of the same thing. The Indian government gave RIM 60 days to sort out lawful intercept, which runs out at the end of October.

Not that it matters - the kerfuffle around the issue will be enough to drive the properly paranoid off the BlackBerry service, while the technically-astute terrorist will continue to use one of the plethora of alternative secure channels available to them. ®

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