Feeds

South Africa joins the call for BlackBerry messaging keys

Miscreants don't care for the secure email, seemingly

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

South Africa has joined the call for access to the BlackBerry Messaging service, quoting the usual security concerns and pointing out that the UK plans much the same thing.

BBM, the BlackBerry messaging service, has become the medium of choice for the discerning ne'er-do-well, which is strange considering it is a good deal less secure than the email offered by the same handset. But the instant nature of messaging appeals to everyone, prompting the new action from the South Africans:

"There is evidence that criminals are now using BBM to plan and execute crime," the deputy comms minister told his audience at a London conference on African telecommunications: "We want to review BBM like in the UK and Saudi Arabia."

BlackBerry email services are very hard to intercept when hosted by an enterprise, but surprisingly easy to tap into when hosted by RIM itself. "Email messages that are sent between the BlackBerry Internet Service and your BlackBerry device are not encrypted," the company admits (PDF), depending instead on the carrier's cryptography. That doesn't mean the messages are in clear, almost all GSM networks encrypt their traffic (not that this matters in the case of government surveillance) but one might imagine the unique PIN attached to every BlackBerry Messenger account would make it more secure.

Sadly (for the criminals) that is not the case:

"By default, each device uses the same global PIN encryption key, which Research In Motion adds to the device during the manufacturing process", the documentation on BlackBerry's enterprise server explains. "Because all devices share the same global PIN encryption key, there is a limit to how effectively PIN messages are encrypted ... Encryption using the global PIN encryption key is sometimes referred to as 'scrambling'."

It seems that RIM has already shared that key with India, Saudi Arabia probably has a copy too and one can be certain that the UK and US governments wouldn't be without a copy.

So if you're a South African criminal, or a London rioter, then you need to get yourself a BlackBerry server and use email for your planning. Or perhaps you shouldn't. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.