BlackBerry’s Privacy and Security Dr. Mohammed Rafik Telecommunication Submitted By

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BlackBerry’s Privacy and Security

Dr. Mohammed Rafik


Submitted By:

Bandar M.Khaleel 200600279



In this project, our main objectives are:

  • Mention the advantages and disadvantages of the BlackBerrys.

  • Notice the weaknesses area on the BlackBerry service.

  • Judge the decision made on the Middle East on banding the BlackBerrys services.

  • How to secure the service from the terrorism issues.

Smart Phones Family Features and Specifications

A wireless phone is a cross between a traditional telephone and a radio device. A wireless phone receives and transmits radio signals via radio towers located across the country. These towers connect to a central system that links to the standard telephone system. Digital phones have several advantages over analog phones: Digital phones are free of static that often plagues analog phones, they provide greater call security, and they have a longer battery life. One drawback, however, are those digital networks doing not currently cover as much territory as analog networks, particularly in rural areas. PCS stands for personal communications services. The term was originally used to describe wireless systems that used a new 1900MHz system, as opposed to the existing 800MHz systems. The higher frequency had less signal strength, but it allowed carriers to include more information in the wireless signal. This lead to the creation of enhanced services like caller ID Carriers operating on 800MHz systems can now include such enhanced services. These days, cell phones provide an incredible array of functions, and new ones are being added at a breakneck pace. Depending on the cell-phone model, you can: Store contact information, make task or to-do lists, keep track of appointments and set reminders, use the built-in calculator for simple math, send or receive e-mail, get information (news, entertainment, stock quotes) from the Internet, play games, watch TV, send text messages, Integrate other devices such as PDAs, and MP3 players and GPS receivers.

Blackberry’s Unique Features

“One of smart phones, BlackBerry is a combination of mobile e-mail devices that was developed and designed by the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM) in 1999”(1). BlackBerry’s general feature is a personal digital assistant with address book, calendar, and memo pad and task list capabilities. BlackBerry cell phone also works as a portable media player that supports music, video and camera capabilities. However, a special feature of BlackBerry is primarily is its ability to send and receive Internet e-mail anywhere there mobile service coverage, or else through Wi-Fi connection. BlackBerry can use wireless data efficiently and with less power than other phones. Another BlackBerry’s feature is its powerful messaging that has multiple of messaging features including auto-text, auto-correct, text prediction, support for many languages, keyboard shortcuts, text emoticons, push email, push Face book.

Also, BlackBerry features is customable to web browsing such as twitter and MySpace notifications, push e-pay notifications, push instant messaging with BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger; threaded text messaging and a customizable indicator light near the top right of all Blackberry devices. All the notifications and conversations from applications are shown in a unified messaging application, which third party applications can access. BlackBerry's superior feature is it son-phone compressed data through BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS).

BlackBerry and legality issues

Well there’s been a lot of news these past few months so it was pretty tough to choose what to cover today, anyway I chose this story as it interests me and could be a real problem for RIM the makers of the popular (and fastest growing) BlackBerry smart-phone device. The latest news is due to the fact that many of the BlackBerry services such as BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) run on a proprietary network BIS (BlackBerry Internet Services) they fall foul of wiretapping laws which require that governments have access to all communications if so required.

“We did cover a story a while back about UAE Telco Etisalat Installing Spyware On Users Blackberries, perhaps that was their first step to mitigate against the communications via BlackBerry devices that rendered them untraceable. The United States said they are ‘disappointed‘ with this decision, but with them rejecting Hawaii’s take-over bids for US companies citing ‘national security threats’ I don’t think they have much to be disappointed about”(4).

We think from a government perspective it’s a fair request, but then for all the countries where privacy advocacy is rife – putting a government approved backdoor in the BlackBerry OS might be a VERY bad idea. Then you have the whole headache of multiple OS versions for different countries with different levels of wiretapping ability.

BlackBerry service among the Middle East

“The United Arab Emirates outlined plans to block BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and Web browsing services in a crackdown that could expose efforts to establish the country as an international business hub”(4).

The government cited a potential security threat because encrypted data sent on the devices is moved abroad, where it cannot be monitored for illegal activity. But the decision — quickly followed by a similar move in Saudi Arabia — raises questions about whether the conservative Gulf nations are trying to further control content they deem politically or morally objectionable.

“BlackBerry phones have a strong following in the region, not only among foreign professionals in commercial centers such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but also among youth who see their relatively secure communication channels as a way to avoid unwanted government attention”(4).

“The authorities have used a variety of arguments, like it can be used by terrorists” to justify the crackdown, said Christopher Davidson, a professor at the University of Durham in Britain, who has written extensively about the region. “Yes that’s true, but it can also be used by civil society campaigners and activists”(4).

Blackberry’s Privacy

Blackberry’s power and uniqueness lie in its no-one’s-land Internet connection that an enclosed network allocated for blackberry users only in addition to other technological features.

Blackberry mobile phone enjoys an array of privacy advantages that features the followings:

  • Blackberry users are able to hide some contention their phone like photos, videos, messages and contacts from others to view.

  • Blackberry users are able to block unwanted and disturbing spam calls and spam messages, simply by using a blackberry application of privacy.

  • Blackberry users are entitled for free and powerful software to guard their phone content. They can lock any application with this software and set a password, which protect their entire phone content, or a single folder from strangers.

BlackBerry has free spam blocker application software that detects spam number from the user’s phones and alerts him with its own online database of spam callers and it automatically blocks them and the spam messages. Its database has more than 50000 spammers.

Blackberry’s Security

“The news of banning some of BlackBerry phones’ features and the entire device in some countries, headed the media early this year. Governments and states of some countries complained against Blackberry’s loose signal for their intelligence and investigative agencies”(3).

BlackBerry’s security campaign resented in the followings:

  • “First, BlackBerry mobile phones access the Internet and email through RIM's own network of secure Network Operations Centers around the world. That means, two BlackBerry units holders can be in contact without being detected. As a result, the phone facilitated many corporate fraud cases where outlaw businessmen did their transactions without leaving traces that will incriminate them”(1).

  • “Second, BlackBerry helped terrorist groups to carry out their attacks. Like what happen terrorist insurgence in Mumbai, India that killed 116 people and injured many others. That was possible because the terrorist group took advantage of the BlackBerry phones and used it as means to do their mission without being detected”(1).

  • “Third, BlackBerry has a complicated encryption technology that makes a hard task to decode even if the unit holder is pinpointed. That is because encryption technology is designed with a network so that the data is exported offshore and this makes it difficult to monitor. All BlackBerry mobile phone companies that operate it, must connect to this proprietary system. While, most wireless service providers have Internet data plans that include email, SMS texting, and web browsing, the BlackBerry Messenger texting service is provided at no charge through Research in Motion’s messenger servers via the BlackBerry PIN”(1).

While the email configuration is customizable and removable within the wireless device, a BlackBerry PIN is permanently encoded in the device.  Due to security matters, the end user or administrator of the wireless account is the only authorized user that can request that the BlackBerry PIN number be “released” from the account.  It is a must that the BlackBerry PIN be released so that a new owner phone does not facilitate unintended communication between Blackberry devices that have previously used the BlackBerry Messenger service.

“BlackBerry’s new feature is its secret success especially among the corporate business activities. Even if BB’s PDA can is re-initialized and the SIM card destroyed, a security issue still there in the wireless carrier’s network.  That is because of BB’s pin configuration. That is why settling a BlackBerry PIN release is necessary in order to assure that a BlackBerry can be renewed, remarketed, and recycled with no data privacy to worry about”(2).

That is why the manufacturer (RIM) of BlackBerry handheld PDA’s, advice of multiple steps are required to assure proper data privacy, including:

  • Resetting the BlackBerry

  • Destruction of the SIM card (GSM only)

Releasing the BlackBerry PIN from the Wireless Carrier Since a BlackBerry has the processing power to send and receive e-mails, instant messages, BlackBerry messages, open word-processing documents, spreadsheets and other documents, it is paramount to delete all the data from these wireless BB.  “While Lifespan uses automation to sanitize and reinitialize all cell phones, a manual process can be performed as well:

  1. From the Home screen of the BlackBerry Smartphone, click Options>Security Options>General Settings.

  2. Press the Menu key, and select the Wipe Handheld option.

  3. Select the Include third-party applications check box to remove third-party applications. Clear the check box to preserve third-party applications.

  4. Click Continue.

  5. Type blackberry, and press the Enter key”(2)

“Destroying the Blackberry should also follow some process. In the wireless industry, there are two competing wireless technologies: Global System for Mobile Communications (“GSM”) and Code Division Multiple Access (“CDMA”).  In the U.S., CDMA mobile devices use an Electronic Serial Number (“ESN”) to identify themselves to the mobile network.  The ESN is hard programmed into the mobile device.  GSM mobile devices utilize a removable card called a subscriber information module (“SIM”)”(2). 


Blackberry cell phone technology like the rest of the smart phones family, represent the state of the art persona; communication phone-internet technology with its multiple features. However, as much as these smart features revolutionized the world of communication to Blackberry users, it disturbed authorities in many countries of the world making the device of two judgments. A device with high standard of privacy for its users, but of low monitor to authorities. This fact makes blackberry a sword with two edges; it depends on who benefits from it to call its features advantages or disadvantages.

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