Entries Tagged "BlackBerry"

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BlackBerry Phone Cracked

Australia is reporting that a BlackBerry device has been cracked after five years:

An encrypted BlackBerry device that was cracked five years after it was first seized by police is poised to be the key piece of evidence in one of the state’s longest-running drug importation investigations.

In April, new technology “capabilities” allowed authorities to probe the encrypted device….

No details about those capabilities.

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 11:54 AMView Comments

BlackBerry's Global Encryption Key

Last week, there was a big news story about the BlackBerry encryption key. The news was that all BlackBerry devices share a global encryption key, and that the Canadian RCMP has a copy of it. Stupid design, certainly, but it’s not news. As the Register points out, this has been repeatedly reported on since 2010.

And note that this only holds for individual users. If your organization uses a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), you have your own unique key.

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 5:54 AMView Comments

More on Hacking Team's Government Spying Software

Hacking Team is an Italian malware company that sells exploit tools to governments. Both Kaspersky Lab and Citizen Lab have published detailed reports on its capabilities against Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry smart phones.

They allow, for example, for covert collection of emails, text messages, call history and address books, and they can be used to log keystrokes and obtain search history data. They can take screenshots, record audio from the phones to monitor calls or ambient conversations, hijack the phone’s camera to snap pictures or piggyback on the phone’s GPS system to monitor the user’s location. The Android version can also enable the phone’s Wi-Fi function to siphon data from the phone wirelessly instead of using the cell network to transmit it. The latter would incur data charges and raise the phone owner’s suspicion.

[…]

Once on a system, the iPhone module uses advance techniques to avoid draining the phone’s battery, turning on the phone’s microphone, for example, only under certain conditions.

“They can just turn on the mic and record everything going on around the victim, but the battery life is limited, and the victim can notice something is wrong with the iPhone, so they use special triggers,” says Costin Raiu, head of Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis team.

One of those triggers might be when the victim’s phone connects to a specific WiFi network, such as a work network, signaling the owner is in an important environment. “I can’t remember having seen such advanced techniques in other mobile malware,” he says.

Hacking Team’s mobile tools also have a “crisis” module that kicks in when they sense the presence of certain detection activities occurring on a device, such as packet sniffing, and then pause the spyware’s activity to avoid detection. There is also a “wipe” function to erase the tool from infected systems.

Hacking Team claims to sell its tools only to ethical governments, but Citizen Lab has found evidence of their use in Saudi Arabia. It can’t be certain the Saudi government is a customer, but there’s good circumstantial evidence. In general, circumstantial evidence is all we have. Citizen Lab has found Hacking Team servers in many countries, but it’s a perfectly reasonable strategy for Country A to locate its servers in Country B.

And remember, this is just one example of government spyware. Assume that the NSA — as well as the governments of China, Russia, and a handful of other countries — have their own systems that are at least as powerful.

Posted on June 26, 2014 at 6:37 AMView Comments

UAE to Ban BlackBerrys

The United Arab Emirates — Dubai, etc. — is threatening to ban BlackBerrys because they can’t eavesdrop on them.

At the heart of the battle is access to the data transmitted by BlackBerrys. RIM processes the information through a handful of secure Network Operations Centers around the world, meaning that most governments can’t access the data easily on their own. The U.A.E. worries that because of jurisdictional issues, its courts couldn’t compel RIM to turn over secure data from its servers, which are outside the U.A.E. even in a national-security situation, a person familiar with the situation said.

This is a weird story for several reasons:

1. The UAE can’t eavesdrop on BlackBerry traffic because it is encrypted between RIM’s servers and the phones. That makes sense, but conventional e-mail services are no different. Gmail, for example, is encrypted between Google’s servers and the users’ computers. So are most other webmail services. Is the mobile nature of BlackBerrys really that different? Is it really not a problem that any smart phone can access webmail through an encrypted SSL tunnel?

2. This an isolated move in a complicated negotiation between the UAE and RIM.

The U.A.E. ban, due to start Oct. 11, was the result of the “failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the U.A.E. in line with U.A.E. telecommunications regulations,” the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said Sunday. The ban doesn’t affect telephone and text-messaging services.

And:

The U.A.E. wanted RIM to locate servers in the country, where it had legal jurisdiction over them; RIM had offered access to the data of 3,000 clients instead, the person said.

There’s no reason to announce the ban over a month before it goes into effect, other than to prod RIM to respond in some way.

3. It’s not obvious who will blink first. RIM has about 500,000 users in the UAE. RIM doesn’t want to lose those subscribers, but the UAE doesn’t want to piss those people off, either. The UAE needs them to work and do business in their country, especially as real estate prices continue to collapse.

4. India, China, and Russia threatened to kick BlackBerrys out for this reason, but relented when RIM agreed to “address concerns,” which is code for “allowed them to eavesdrop.”

Most countries have negotiated agreements with RIM that enable their security agencies to monitor and decipher this traffic. For example, Russia’s two main mobile phone providers, MTS and Vimpelcom, began selling BlackBerrys after they agreed to provide access to the federal security service. “We resolved this question,” Vimpelcom says. “We provided access.”

The launch of BlackBerry service by China Mobile was delayed until RIM negotiated an agreement that enables China to monitor traffic.

Similarly, last week India lifted a threat to ban BlackBerry services after RIM agreed to address concerns.

[…]

Nevertheless, while RIM has declined to comment on the details of its arrangements with any government, it issued an opaque statement on Monday: “RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers.”

How did they do that? Did they put RIM servers in those countries, and allow the government access to the traffic? Did they pipe the raw traffic back to those countries from their servers elsewhere? Did they just promise to turn over any data when asked?

RIM makes a big deal about how secure its users’ data is, but I don’t know how much of that to believe:

RIM said the BlackBerry network was set up so that “no one, including RIM, could access” customer data, which is encrypted from the time it leaves the device. It added that RIM would “simply be unable to accommodate any request” for a key to decrypt the data, since the company doesn’t have the key.

The BlackBerry network is designed “to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances,” RIM’s statement said. Moreover, the location of BlackBerry’s servers doesn’t matter, the company said, because the data on them can’t be deciphered without a decryption key.

Am I missing something here? RIM isn’t providing a file storage service, where user-encrypted data is stored on its servers. RIM is providing a communications service. While the data is encrypted between RIM’s servers and the BlackBerrys, it has to be encrypted by RIM — so RIM has access to the plaintext.

In any case, RIM has already demonstrated that it has the technical ability to address the UAE’s concerns. Like the apocryphal story about Churchill and Lady Astor, all that’s left is to agree on a price.

5. For the record, I have absolutely no idea what this quote of mine from the Reuters story really means:

“If you want to eavesdrop on your people, then you ban whatever they’re using,” said Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer at BT. “The basic problem is there’s encryption between the BlackBerries and the servers. We find this issue all around about encryption.”

I hope I wasn’t that incoherent during the phone interview.

EDITED TO ADD (8/5): I might have gotten a do-over with Reuters. On a phone interview yesterday, I said: “RIM’s carefully worded statements about BlackBerry security are designed to make their customers feel better, while giving the company ample room to screw them.” Jonathan Zittrain picks apart one of those statements.

Posted on August 3, 2010 at 11:08 AMView Comments

The Case of the Stolen BlackBerry and the Awesome Chinese Hacking Skills

A high-level British government employee had his BlackBerry stolen by Chinese intelligence:

The aide, a senior Downing Street adviser who was with the prime minister on a trip to China earlier this year, had his BlackBerry phone stolen after being picked up by a Chinese woman who had approached him in a Shanghai hotel disco.

The aide agreed to return to his hotel with the woman. He reported the BlackBerry missing the next morning.

That can’t look good on your annual employee review.

But it’s this part of the article that has me confused:

Experts say that even if the aide’s device did not contain anything top secret, it might enable a hostile intelligence service to hack into the Downing Street server, potentially gaining access to No 10’s e-mail traffic and text messages.

Um, what? I assume the IT department just turned off the guy’s password. Was this nonsense peddled to the press by the UK government, or is some “expert” trying to sell us something? The article doesn’t say.

EDITED TO ADD (7/22): The first commenter makes a good point, which I didn’t think of. The article says that it’s Chinese intelligence:

A senior official said yesterday that the incident had all the hallmarks of a suspected honeytrap by Chinese intelligence.

But Chinese intelligence would be far more likely to clone the BlackBerry and then return it. Much better information that way. This is much more likely to be petty theft.

EDITED TO ADD (7/23): The more I think about this story, the less sense it makes. If you’re a Chinese intelligence officer and you manage to get an aide to the British Prime Minister to have sex with one of your agents, you’re not going to immediately burn him by stealing his BlackBerry. That’s just stupid.

Posted on July 22, 2008 at 10:05 AMView Comments

BlackBerry Giving Encryption Keys to Indian Government

RIM encrypts e-mail between BlackBerry devices and the server the server with 256-bit AES encryption. The Indian government doesn’t like this at all; they want to snoop on the data. RIM’s response was basically: That’s not possible. The Indian government’s counter was: Then we’ll ban BlackBerries. After months of threats, it looks like RIM is giving in to Indian demands and handing over the encryption keys.

EDITED TO ADD (5/27): News:

BlackBerry vendor Research-In-Motion (RIM) said it cannot hand over the message encrytion key to the government as its security structure does not allow any ‘third party’ or even the company to read the information transferred over its network.

EDITED TO ADD (7/2): Looks like they have resolved the impasse.

Posted on May 21, 2008 at 2:09 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.