Blackberry-Priv-AH-13

BlackBerry Addresses Dutch Police Hacking Claims

January 15, 2016 - Written By Tom Dawson

BlackBerry is a firm that has had an interesting ride in the mobile market over the past five years. Much like Nokia, they climbed to the top of the ladder, but failed to adopt smartphone operating systems akin to iOS and Android. After a failed experiment with QNX and BlackBerry OS 10, the company is now using Android, with the PRIV from last year being their first Android-powered device. Earlier this week, reports from Dutch police emerged claiming that they could hack open and extract whatever information they wanted, including deleted emails. Now, BlackBerry is refuting these claims.

The story goes that the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) were able to hack into BlackBerry devices that use the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption method. The NFI help the Dutch police and authorities obtain forensic evidence, which these days involves a lot of data and online behaviour, so the idea that they can crack open a BlackBerry is an interesting one, and perhaps worrying to some. Well, BlackBerry have refuted these claims in a blog post, albeit in a fairly careful manner. The Canadian firm says that “there are no backdoors in any BlackBerry devices, and BlackBerry does not store and therefore cannot share BlackBerry device passwords with law enforcement or anyone else” and that “provided that users follow recommended practices, BlackBerry devices remain as secure and private as they have always been”.

However, for all their big talk, BlackBerry did say that they didn’t have “any details on the specific device or the way that it was configured, managed or otherwise protected” or which types of communications were apparently decrypted. This whole saga has quickly become a classic case of finger-pointing with little evidence. The NFI aren’t likely to release their methods, should BlackBerry patch older devices that might be in use by career criminals, and BlackBerry are unlikely to admit to a break in their devices. Considering that the consumer market has pretty much abandoned BlackBerry, governments and law enforcement agencies the world over are all that the Canadian firm have left, so these news has probably given their biggest remaining customers some food for thought. We suppose it’s a good job that Android devices will get monthly security updates from Google these days, right?