Germany joins nations concerned over BlackBerry security

The German government has been revealed as the latest international power to have voiced concerns over the way in which the encrypted email services used by BlackBerry smartphones and their contemporaries are handled, arguing that they pose a threat to national security because of the potential for data loss and security breaches.

Canadian-based BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) has come under fire over recent weeks after Saudi Arabia was joined by the United Arab Emirates and India in criticising the fact that secure emails and instant messages are routed through the firm’s domestic servers even if they are being sent and received on the other side of the globe.

It emerged that German officials had been warned that continued use of BlackBerry handsets and other smartphones could lead to personal data and information of national importance becoming compromised. This advice was given in November 2009, but newspaper Handelsblatt unearthed the information in the wake of the current controversy.

In Germany the government ministers were advised to ditch their BlackBerry or iPhone in favour of a SiMKo 2 smartphone that complies with BSI guidelines for data protection.

Elsewhere it looks like RIM is getting ready to concede to its powerful detractors and allow the Saudi Arabian authorities to gain access to all secure communications which are sent by BlackBerry users in their country for monitoring purposes.

This will presumably mean that RIM will be privy to the data as is currently the case, but the Saudis are more concerned with quelling insurgency and perceived threats to the state rather than protecting the correspondence of leading government officials.

The SiMKo 2 smartphone which German politicians favour is specifically designed to offer levels of security which will be adequate to protect the information routinely transferred between ministers and other government users.

BlackBerry handsets have become widely popular amongst business users, particularly in the US where RIM holds the controlling share of the smartphone market. However, high profile BlackBerry users including President Obama have been persuaded to choose smartphones which offer tighter security for fear that they will become targets of data criminals or foreign intelligence agencies.

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