BlackBerry: Does ‘world’s most secure’ new phone have a back door for police?

(This post was updated on July 29, 2016 to include a response from Blackberry)

Canadian firm BlackBerry is marketing its new DTEK50 phone as the “world’s most secure,” but recent events make that a questionable assertion.

In April, BlackBerry CEO John Chen publicly declared his love for Big Brother, saying in a blog post that “tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests.”

Chen also appeared to take a swipe at Apple, whose resistance to FBI demands for an iPhone back door staked out battle lines in a growing encryption debate. “I have stated before that we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good,” Chen said.

Chen was responding to revelations that month that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had a back door to BlackBerry phones and had harvested some million text messages going back at least as far as 2010.

The Mounties may be most famous outside Canada for the goofy cartoon cop Dudley Do-Right, but they are a sophisticated national police force, and share information with U.S. authorities.

In arguing for a “reasonable” approach to police snooping, Chen said “there is a balance between doing what’s right, such as helping to apprehend criminals, and preventing government abuse of invading citizen’s privacy, including when we refused to give Pakistan access to our servers.”

Telling Pakistan to talk to the hand — that’s standing up for customers’ privacy! No doubt BlackBerry would respond similarly to requests from North Korea, Russia and Syria (but maybe we’re assuming too much).

To be sure, it appears BlackBerry applies a very high privacy standard for its business customers. Chen said in his blog post that Dudley Do-Right’s crew never poked their noses into BlackBerry’s enterprise server used by corporate customers. That system, Chen said,  “continues to be impenetrable – also without the ability for backdoor access.”

SiliconBeat reached out to BlackBerry Tuesday morning to ask if RCMP or any other government agencies would have an encryption key to the “world’s most secure” phone, the DTEK50. A company PR person said she would look into it. Receiving no response, we asked again Wednesday morning.

Crickets.

However, on Friday, Blackberry spokeswoman Kara Yi said the company “does not provide decryption keys to anyone.” Police access to a Blackberry phone’s data can only be obtained via a court order, Yi said.

Photo: BlackBerry’s new DTEK50 phone (courtesy of BlackBerry)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 

Share this Post



 
 
 
  • wussel

    And the Apple paid smear campaign begins

  • Jet_powered

    Apple’s negative marketing group is alive and well continues to be the “go to” for Tim Cook when dealing with Blackberry. It seems owning almost half of the market share and most of the industry profits is not good enough, all alternatives must be snuffed out immediately, even if they have less than one percent market share.

    Such is the expected behavior of that society-centric morally-superior smug money vacuum called Apple.

  • onstrike112

    Nice job covering for Apple’s anti-warrant stance that is criminal. That’s what this article is. Saying you need to be a criminal to be a paragon for privacy.

    • charlie2010

      re: Nice job covering for Apple’s anti-warrant stance that is criminal.

      Did you expect anything else from a silicon journalist…the Left openly endorse BLM and the barbaric values of Islam towards gays, women and Christians.

      • Mel Gross

        You guys are jerks. You don’t understand any of these issues.

        • charlie2010

          Are we supposed to take your word for it because you’re a ‘liberal/progressive’? Typically leftwinger, insulting, unintelligent and unwilling to debate.

  • foroa

    Blackberrys have no privacy at all when confronted by a court warrant or the all-encompassing All Writs Act. The iPhone 6 and above have proven to be a lot safer than all the Blackberrys, James Comey, the current FBI Director, can attest to that.

    • This is not a privacy issue. This is a security issue. Apple has publicly chosen not to cooperate with the FBI. Blackberry has publicly chosen to cooperate as long as proper documentation is presented. The only time Apple helped catch criminals was when Apple was more hackable and never did it on their own.

      So…you want more security? Yes, go with an iPhone that get jailbroken in a year (unhackable you say?). Of course, criminals will love you for it. And so will the governments that will still get your information. Just without you knowing it since the public stance Apple has taken is that they refused the FBI access. Who knows what happens behind closed doors after all.

      • Mel Gross

        This is a privacy issue. So far, it hasn’t been shown that terrorists have used these phones for that purpose. The big deal that the FBI made of that Apple phone was a waste of time and money. There was nothing on that phone, because the phone he did use, he destroyed.

        These people are despicable, but they aren’t stupid.

      • Yasch

        Zareth, you’re wrong about Apple not complying. They accede to FBI and NSA requests 82% of the time. All they did in the case of the San Bernardino terrorist was to refuse the FBI’s request for construction of a backdoor. Tim Cook brilliantly marketed that to lead iPhone users to believe that Apple has their back, no matter what. For some reason, no one reads or comments on Apple’s own transparency reports. Nor do they read reports on iOS vulnerabilities. All Apple software has an astonishing number of published vulnerabilities. http://venturebeat.com/2015/12/31/software-with-the-most-vulnerabilities-in-2015-mac-os-x-ios-and-flash/

  • foroa

    If your well being depends on security, go to the iPhone 6 and above, there is no other choice.

    • Nate650

      How many shares long AAPL and short BBRY are you?

      • Mel Gross

        You guys are pretty dumb. Like Chen, the FBI, and others, you don’t seem to understand that unbreakable end to end encryption for phones is free on the internet.

        • Nate650

          End to end encryption is only one aspect of security.

    • wussel

      Oh yes switch to Apple and thank them next time a criminal or terrorist places the next bomb

    • wussel

      Oh yes switch to Apple and thank them next time a criminal or terrorist places the next bomb

  • wussel

    When you are at it ask Apple if it is now one of their new core values to support the privacy of terrorists and criminals

  • wussel

    When you are at it ask Apple if it is now one of their new core values to support the privacy of terrorists and criminals

  • Yea, there technically IS a backdoor. It’s asking the company while having a warrant for it. The warrant states that criminal activity is being conducted and if Blackberry finds that it is indeed the case, they will report it. Unless you enjoy having terrorists/criminals kill your family off.

    Also the public stance and actual stance of companies will always vary. Apple as a company can say they refuse the FBI but what happens under the table, stays that way and never reaches the public.

    • Mel Gross

      And all governments looking for dissidents, such as the Russians and Chinese, just need to make a request, and Chen will give them the info without asking any questions. Great!

  • K Chung

    Clever how you cut the quote short to convey a completely different meaning. Chen said the most secure “Android” phone. Also no police or any other authority can gain access to individual/corpoarate BlackBerry enterprise server accounts.

  • Mel Gross

    We know that Blackberry has given this info away for years. By their answers, or non answers, it’s obvious that they want to stay in the good graces of police and security agencies around the world. They have no other choice, as no one else is buying their phones.

    But when he said, a few months ago, in an interview, that they would give access to all “legitimate requests” from any government that asked for it, you just knew that they were giving all this away.

    What they say they won’t give away is acces to the BES servers. But most people have Blackberry phones that don’t use BES. They use Microsoft services instead. So, according to Chen, that’s fair game. What a loser this guy is. He’s that desperate.

    • Yasch

      Mel Gross, BlackBerry has a policy of complying with law enforcement requests accompanied by subpoena. Apple has the same policy. Apple submits a Transparency Report every six months, where they typically comply with 82% of all government and law enforcement requests for information. http://www.imore.com/apples-latest-transparency-report-details-government-data-and-device-requests In most of the remaining 18% of cases, Apple simply can’t comply because the data is irretrievable.

  • MM

    Look, we don’t have to worry about Apple giving governments access to their systems…they can get in without their help. Don’t need a back door…just use the front.

  • foroa

    Blackberry caved in to Pakistan after its government announced shutting down Blackberry within the country. Pakistan ranks as one of the very worst regions infested with rampant corruptions and overt terrorism worse than Lebanon. Blackberry should be renamed ‘Swiss Cheese’.

    • Jet_powered

      Wow…what a totally distorted view of reality.

      If you were to do a very little research you would find that rather than allow unrestricted government access Blackberry was fully prepared to leave Pakistan and it was Pakistan that backed down.

      To date, Blackberries have never been hacked and are deemed to be impervious. This is why they need to offer judicial access when requested, which is unlike any other vendors whose devices are fully open to non-judicial surveillance by any party with enough money to pay.

      • foroa

        Obviously you do not have accesses to the tons of FBI intelligence concerning these affairs, or the horrendously horrific Blackberry hack incidents. Even the well respected Economist publisher has done an admirably candid and comprehensive work along the line of the FBI on how fallible Blackberry is. You know who Hillary Clinton is? Debbie Wasserman Schultz? The Russians, Chinese and Koreans completely own Blackberry without buying a single phone or BBRY share.

        • Jet_powered

          Oh my…..

  • foroa

    Police have long been faithful advocates and users of Blackberrys. 10 police officers murders later, what does their misguided and misplaced faith in Blackberry teach us? The US army has mandated only iPhones for all their tactical missions. US Senate stopped issuing Blackberry phones. Blackberry has been aggressively acquiring long time American software and services trying to patch up the very broken Blackberry businesses.

  • foroa

    FBI is a great tool for servicing and protecting our democracy, freedom, justice and liberty. Just add a touch of greed of power and politics, and the FBI will mutate into the tools used by tyranny and imperialistic practices. Backdoors is number one for such tools. Frankly, who can escape such mutations? How long can Apple hold it off?

  • Yasch

    When the previous CEOs of BB helped the RCMP, they were going after Mafia and biker gangs who’d taken their various battles to the streets of Montreal in broad daylight. That was a special case. We all know that Tim Cook would do the same if the FBI or NSA made a compelling case that the next 9/11 might be averted with access to the phones of a bunch of guys pretending to take flying lessons in some dark corner of the country.

    Chen has repeatedly stated BB does not offer back doors. The company was ready to abandon Pakistan, and had already announced this was going to happen, when the government there ordered Chen to bend over. In the meantime, Apple complies regularly with law enforcement and government requests for information. Add to that the fact that Apple products typically rank near the top of CVE lists (vulnerabilities). http://venturebeat.com/2015/12/31/software-with-the-most-vulnerabilities-in-2015-mac-os-x-ios-and-flash/

    What Apple has — and most other companies don’t — is mastery of the Jedi mind trick. Wave a hand in front of Apple’s transparency reports, lists of vulnerabilities, and news stories about the latest hack … and they disappear.

  • foroa

    Chen accused indirectly that Apple security ‘rises above the law’. FBI took Apple to the Capitol Hill trying to force Apple to make it a backdoor. Blackberry has backdoors and stay mum when pressed by the press. Apple and other leading technology authorities (Blackberry absent) all stood up to the FBI upholding civil liberty. This is turning out to be a Democrat standing for liberty against Republican for brute authority.

  • foroa

    It truly is a joke to consider Blackberry as an equal, Blackberry is a very small company that is becoming even smaller. This company is insecure and highly unstable with absolutely zero credibility and capability.

  • AltaWinger

    foroa,
    I have to wonder how much Apple is paying you to troll the boards. Get your info straight. The US senate may have shunned BB but the BB is still the phone preferred by the President and his staff so nuff said.

 
 
css.php