Bad Guys Love the BlackBerry

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-10-08 Print this article Print

Guess who else figured out that RIM's BlackBerry ecosystem is the most secure wireless business platform out there? Yep, it's the cyber-criminals.

According to an interesting piece typed up earlier this week by reporters at The Vancouver Sun, law enforcement types with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have found that greater numbers of criminals have been reaching into their pockets to shell out for BlackBerry's commercial-grade security.

"The BlackBerry [server] was created with corporate data security in mind," states the RCMP report, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the Access to Information Act. "Until recently, this system was only affordable by companies such as Telus, CIBC, and the like; they are now more affordable and it is easy for individuals to set up a network."

So even if you have no idea who Telus (telecommunications) and CIBC (banking) might be, the idea is likely the same down here in the States. Cagey bad types looking for the highest level of security and ROI from their wireless infrastructure are making the same decision that many enterprises have and going BlackBerry.

"It's something we've seen increasing over the last three to four years," Staff Sgt. Bruce Imrie, head of the RCMP's Vancouver Integrated Technological Crime Unit, said in an interview with the Sun.

The story goes on to conclude that use of the BlackBerry platform by criminals is making it harder for law enforcers to spy on the baddies, based on the system's highly regarded encryption.

Even when law enforcers get their hands on criminals' confiscated BlackBerry handhelds, the devices often prove troublesome to unlock based on their onboard security settings, according to the report.

As for the sophistication of the criminals adopting the devices, the BlackBerry challenge doesn't just apply to the particularly technology-savvy criminals, but also biker gangs and those less typically associated with using cutting-edge tools.

"The use of BlackBerrys may allow them to circumvent lawful access ... [with] the encryption involved in the transmission," said Imrie.

RIM's 256-bit key BlackBerry server encryption claims to be nearly "unbreakable," as unlikely as that sounds. But, when's the last time you read about a BlackBerry hack? (Um, that's never.)

The downside of technically sound approaches to electronic security is that they're usually every bit as available to the nefarious people as the good guys.

But that hasn't changed much since the invention of the Colt .22, has it?

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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