RIM, India Agree on Cloud-Based BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Monitoring
RIM and the Indian government have reportedly come to an agreement over a new cloud-based BlackBerry monitoring system.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
In the latest development in the whole Research In Motion (RIM)-vs-Foreign-Governments-That-Want-Access-to-Protected-BlackBerry-Data saga of 2010, the Canadian BlackBerry-maker appears to have constructed some sort of cloud-computing-based system that will assuage the Indian government’s ongoing security concerns by granting Indian security agencies access to “lawfully intercepted” BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) mobile IM communications on a case by case basis, according to a recent report.
BBM is RIM’s proprietary and BlackBerry-specific mobile IM service. This new cloud-based monitoring system will reportedly be employed instead of a RIM setting up a new server on Indian grounds, which was raised as one possible solution to the impasse.
A letter to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs from RIM VP of Government Relations, Robert Crow, reportedly reads:
“As per the compliance schedule agreed to by both Research In Motion and the Ministry of Home Affairs, RIM infrastructure is ready to receive and process via the cloud computing-based system lawfully intercepted BlackBerry Messenger data from Indian service providers.”
RIM has been back and forth with India and a variety of other foreign governments, including a number of United Arab Emirates (UAE) territories, over whether or not RIM could, or would, grant access to BBM and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) communications to foreign governments. These foreign governments fear that terrorists and other malicious individuals are using BlackBerry, BBM and other “secure” mobile communications platforms to communicate.
In most cases, RIM has come to some sort of agreement to keep BlackBerry up and running in these areas, or the company is still working with government representatives to address security concerns.
Earlier this month, RIM said it would grant Indian security organizations access to BBM data on a “case by case” basis, but it didn’t specify how this would happen. And yesterday, TheHinduBusinessLine.com reported that RIM had set up the new, cloud-based BBM intercept service to provide Indian security agencies with some access to BBM data, and that Indian government officials are content with the fix.
Specifics on how such a system will work are still unavailable. And it’s still unclear whether or not RIM and the Indian government have devised some sort of solution to provide access to encrypted BES communications, which RIM has repeatedly said cannot be easily decrypted.
So while this story is ongoing, RIM has stuck to its word that it would work with foreign governments to enable “lawful” access to any available BlackBerry data. But BES data is encrypted by BlackBerry administrators, according to the company, and no one, including RIM, has access to those specific encryption keys except for the admins who create them. RIM has explained this fact over and over again to various governments, including India, but they all appear to still be looking for some kind or workaround. It will be interesting to see how long it takes these governments to accept the reality that they will not be getting access to encrypted BES communications—and whether this reality will lead to BES-bans in some countries or areas.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.