BlackBerry use poses security threat, Gulf state claims

The use of BlackBerry smartphones is considered a security threat by authorities in the United Arab Emirates.

In an official statement published over the weekend, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said that Research in Motion’s BlackBerry – which holds a 19% global smartphone market share – operates “beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation”.

"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 read.

It is believed that this refers to the fact that emails sent via BlackBerry are encrypted, meaning that national security agencies cannot intercept them. In 2008, the Indian government expressed similar concerns, saying the devices could be used by ‘insurgents’ to organise terrorist activity.

Last year, the UAE’s national telecoms operator Etisalat advised BlackBerry users to install a "performance enhancement" patch that one programmer in the region claimed could be used to intercept email and text messages.

Nigel Gourlay, a software programmer based in Qatar, told Middle Eastern telecoms news site that the patch carried a tag linking it to SS8, a company that describes itself as "a leader in communications intercept and a worldwide provider of regulatory compliant, electronic intercept and surveillance solutions". Etisalat withdrew the patch as a "precautionary measure" soon after.

RIM was not available to comment on the UAE government’s announcement at the time of publication.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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