BlackBerry Boss Spills the Beans on ‘Lawful Access’

BlackBerry Boss Spills the Beans on ‘Lawful Access’

BlackBerry boss John Chen has hinted that his firm may have complied with police access requests for encrypted BBM chats sent via its BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) during an operation designed to dismantle a Mafia crime syndicate.

In a carefully worded blog post, the CEO and executive chairman of the Canadian mobile firm addressed reports from last week that claimed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had accessed the global encryption key used to secure all BBM messages.

Court documents in the case – where incriminating messages were used to help to prosecute dozens suspected of involvement in organized crime – revealed that the RCMP ran a “BlackBerry interception and processing system,” and that it had “the correct global key when it decrypted messages during its investigation.”

However, it was not revealed in court exactly how it came by that key, according to Vice.

In a short blog post yesterday, BlackBerry’s Chen claimed of the case: “Regarding BlackBerry’s assistance, I can reaffirm that we stood by our lawful access principles.”

These principles state:

“Like others in our industry, from time to time, BlackBerry may receive requests from legal authorities for lawful access assistance. We are guided by appropriate legal processes and publicly disclosed lawful access principles in this regard, as we balance any such requests against our priority of maintaining privacy rights of our users. We do not speculate or comment upon individual matters of lawful access. Additionally, BlackBerry does not provide special deals for individual countries…”

Chen added that BlackBerry would always “do what is right for the citizenry, within legal and ethical boundaries.”

“We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests,” he added. “I have stated before that we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good.”

That stance puts it somewhat in contrast with Apple, which has taken a major stand recently against the US authorities over access to private messages.

Chen went on to confirm that the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) remains inviolate when it comes to providing law enforcers with access to private messages. This is because the encryption key is handled by individual customers – meaning BlackBerry couldn’t help if it wanted to.

That’s why it has repeatedly turned down such requests from nations such as Pakistan.

Its uncompromising stance there eventually led to the government withdrawing its access demands, having previously ordered the firm to cease operating there.

BBM users will, however, feel more than a little nervous that if the RCMP had access to specific users’ messages, law enforcers in other countries may also.

Source: Information Security Magazine