It looks like Saudi Arabia has succeeded in forcing RIM to allow access to a portion of its data as it flows through the cell phone network. The proposed deal with Saudi Arabia should seem like a real victory to other countries such as the UAE. Many of the cell phone providers in the Middle East have been eager to gain access to this data. As an example, Etisalat, the main cell phone company in the UAE, attempted to hack into these smart phones last year but failed when the code dropped onto Blackberry devices failed to execute properly causing the phones to drain batteries quickly.
While Blackberry phones do offer some security, the level of security offered is dependent upon its configuration. Corporate users have additional security controls that are not available to consumers. While there are legitimate situations where traffic may need to be monitored, the real issue here is the continued erosion of privacy.
RIM has stated that they will work with all governments to ensure that their services meet any specific national security standards. For RIM to maintain market share in countries such as India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc.; they will be forced to place some servers in these nations and allow them to be used as a point to tap or access the email data stream. The only other option is to leave these markets. RIM is already under pressure from Apple and Android. Leaving these growing markets is not something that I believe that RIM will want to do.
Superior Solutions, Inc. COO, Michael Gregg, has been interviewed on this issue several times in that last few weeks. So, if you’re asking yourself when was the last time you saw Michael Gregg discuss smart phone security, check out the resource page for links to these articles.