RIM proposes crypto forum to dodge India BlackBerry ban

But will it be enough for New Dehli?


RIM has prosed that an industry forum be established to help governments manage lawful intercept, in the hope of forestalling India's threatened ban.

The proposed body would be led by RIM, but the company is clearly hoping that others will join in. There's strength in numbers and India has made it clear that Skype and Google are next in the firing line, so RIM would like such powerful allies at the table beside them rather than watching from the sidelines. But it remains to be seen if that's enough to stop India pulling the plug on Wednesday.

India isn't the first government to demand access to messages encrypted by RIMs servers, but its demands do seem to go further than other countries in a similar situation, and that might make resolving the issue impossible.

Many governments resent not being able to intercept messages destined for BlackBerry handsets. The UAE and Saudi Arabia both threatened bans on BlackBerry devices unless some sort of lawful intercept was arranged, and both backed down after coming to an agreement with RIM.

But India's demands are more intrusive and less palatable to the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry service, which might mean a million Indians lose connectivity next Wednesday.

There are two distinct kinds of BlackBerry user: employees of a company that runs its own BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and ordinary members of the public who buy a BlackBerry handset and sign up to the service, then forward their existing email accounts to one provided and hosted by RIM.

It's those members of the public that have been the focus up to this point, as emails sent to the RIM-hosted BES are encrypted before being forwarded to the handset. That encryption is, in this context, unbreakable, but if you get a copy of the message before it's encrypted then there's no problem. If the server is located in a friendly country then that can be arranged - lawful intercept will permit the government to copy messages just like every other email service. But if the server is in a less agreeable country then it gets more difficult.

This is exactly the same as checking a Gmail account over an SSL connection, which is why RIM is hoping companies like Google will join its new body.

"Singling out and banning one solution, such as the BlackBerry solution, would be ineffective and counter-productive," RIM said. "It would be ineffective because anyone perpetrating the misuse of the technology would continue to have easy access to other wireless and wireline services that utilize strong encryption and are readily available in the market today."

The UAE and Saudi Arabia dropped their threats once RIM promised to put servers in their respective countries. But that doesn't solve the problem of the corporate BES user, whose communication is encrypted from their own office to their own handset, and can't be usefully intercepted en route.

Larger corporations may find themselves required to open their BES server to investigation, where an employee is suspected of a serious crime, but there's a significant risk of the employee getting wind of the operation - a risk that increases the smaller the company is.

The BES, in the corporate office, shares an encryption key with the BlackBerry handsets it supports (that key is normally exchanged over a wire, or physically typed in at both ends). The key is different for every BlackBerry, and shared with no one else - making it impossible for RIM to decrypt messages in real time as the Indian government is demanding.

So far, according to Reuters, RIM has offered to provide the IP address of every BES in India, along with the IMEI and PIN for every BlackBerry handset. But that still won't allow interception of messages. At best it would mean that Indian security forces could track a specific user (by their IMEI), physically grab their BlackBerry, unlock it using the PIN and then access the messages - hardly discreet.

So now we have a proposal for an "Industry Body" to look at the whole issue of how governments intercept encrypted communications - RIM is obviously tired of taking the flak for the whole industry, and hopes to broaden the argument, but Google, Skype and their ilk have little to gain by signing up rather than watching what happens to RIM. India still holds the ultimate sanction of a ban, and we'll have to wait until next week to see if its prepared to use it. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Demand for PC and smartphone chips drops 'like a rock' says CEO of China’s top chipmaker
    Markets outside China are doing better, but at home vendors have huge component stockpiles

    Demand for chips needed to make smartphones and PCs has dropped "like a rock" – but mostly in China, according to Zhao Haijun, the CEO of China's largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

    Speaking on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call last Friday, Zhao said smartphone makers currently have five months inventory to hand, so are working through that stockpile before ordering new product. Sales of PCs, consumer electronics and appliances are also in trouble, the CEO said, leaving some markets oversupplied with product for now. But unmet demand remains for silicon used for Wi-Fi 6, power conversion, green energy products, and analog-to-digital conversion.

    Zhao partly attributed sales slumps to the Ukraine war which has made the Russian market off limits to many vendors and effectively taken Ukraine's 44 million citizens out of the global market for non-essential purchases.

    Continue reading
  • Colocation consolidation: Analysts look at what's driving the feeding frenzy
    Sometimes a half-sized shipping container at the base of a cell tower is all you need

    Analysis Colocation facilities aren't just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

    But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that's driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

    "You can only provide those value-added services if you're big enough," Forrester research director Glenn O'Donnell said.

    Continue reading
  • D-Wave deploys first US-based Advantage quantum system
    For those that want to keep their data in the homeland

    Quantum computing outfit D-Wave Systems has announced availability of an Advantage quantum computer accessible via the cloud but physically located in the US, a key move for selling quantum services to American customers.

    D-Wave reported that the newly deployed system is the first of its Advantage line of quantum computers available via its Leap quantum cloud service that is physically located in the US, rather than operating out of D-Wave’s facilities in British Columbia.

    The new system is based at the University of Southern California, as part of the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center hosted at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a factor that may encourage US organizations interested in evaluating quantum computing that are likely to want the assurance of accessing facilities based in the same country.

    Continue reading
  • Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants
    US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act

    The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022