25 July, 2010

Blackberry Shenanigans

The National is reporting that the future of BlackBerry within the UAE may be in doubt...

BlackBerry is operating beyond the UAE law, the government’s official news service reported today, throwing doubt on the future of the mobile email and messaging service.

BlackBerry’s suite of communication services such as e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) use internal networks that are encrypted under one of the world’s most complex codes.

BlackBerry has about 500,000 subscribers in the Emirates, not counting visitors who roam through the airports.

BlackBerry “operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation”, according to a statement issued today by the state-run news service WAM. This is because it “is the only device operating in the UAE that immediately exports its data offshore and is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation”.

“As a result of how BlackBerry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain BlackBerry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions,” the statement added.

More here: BlackBerry is 'beyond the law' says government (The National)

To read some info about the kind of stuff kicking around on BlackBerry Messenger service I recommend taking a look at Sultan Al Qassemi's twitter feed (e.g. this tweet, this tweet and this tweet

And I'm sure we need no reminder of Etisalat's efforts to "spy" on UAE BlackBerry users last year. (link courtesy anon)

EDIT: In case the TRA's claim that they are doing this to "[safeguard] our consumers" sounds familiar, that's because it is the same reasoning they used when trying to explain why Skype is blocked in the UAE.


Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

This has nothing to do with recent messages discussing Sharjah power situation, which I have seen a few debate on twitter?

Kyle said...

Interesting synopsis:

The final thing to mention is that the spyware does appear to be installed in a non-running state by default, where it's not actually exfiltrating data once the initial registration packet has gone out. However, using the command and control mechanism we described earlier, the carrier can remotely start/stop the service at will on a per-device basis.

Source: http://www.veracode.com/blog/2009/07/blackberry-spyware-dissected/

There's never a dull moment as far as Etisalad is concerned. In a way, I'm glad I'm dumped my BB for an HTC Droid.

From a technical point of view, a restore to default factory settings should get rid of this spyware, which when prompted, an alert techie can simply choose to ignore, no? Or does this spyware code stay embedded forever?

Keefieboy said...

500,000 users?! I don't think so. And surely the telcos knew what the score is with RIM. What a crock, same as always.

nzm said...

Ha! It's taken them this long to figure out how to get back at RIM after Etisalat's spyware download fiasco a year ago!

This was excellently covered by Alexander here and here.

Keefie - in Alexander's first link, you make a comment about the UAE Black Berry users being reported as 145,000. In a year, it's gone to 500,000!

Anonymous said...



20 July 2010, 1:18 PMA recent consumer poll conducted in the UAE showed that more than half of the Emirati respondents (55 per cent) do not trust the information they receive via Blackberry Messenger.

A full 61 per cent of Nationals surveyed agree that people use Blackberry Messenger to anonymously spread rumours and false information, said Integral Research in its survey field work conducted between 14-16 July 2010.

Despite this distrust, 71 per cent of the respondents are always available to their BBM contacts, with only 19 per cent switching off their Blackberry as part of their regular day.

The national survey queried Blackberry subscribers in the UAE, including a dedicated sample of UAE Nationals, on their use of Blackberry Messenger. Almost three quarters (70 per cent) of Emirati subscribers believe that the use of Blackberry Messenger by children and teenagers is inappropriate – compared to the survey average of 52 per cent

Saif said...

Sometimes I feel like the UAE is a testing ground for other countries to learn from. It seems they want alot of government control over everything. Might as well put cameras in our houses to make sure people aren't creating a threat to society.

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