Decrypting Blackberry Security, Decentralizing the Future

Photo credit: HonouCountries around the globe have been threatening Research in Motion (RIM) for months now, publicly stating that they would ban BlackBerry services if RIM refuses to provide decryption keys to various governments. The tech press has generally focused on ‘governments just don’t get how encryption works’ rather than ‘this is how BlackBerry security works, and how government demands affect consumers and businesses alike.’ This post is an effort to more completely respond to the second focus in something approximating comprehensive detail.

I begin by writing openly and (hopefully!) clearly about the nature and deficiencies of BlackBerry security and RIM’s rhetoric around consumer security in particular. After sketching how the BlackBerry ecosystem secures communications data, I pivot to identify many of the countries demanding greater access to BlackBerry-linked data communications. Finally, I suggest RIM might overcome these kinds of governmental demands by transitioning from a 20th to 21st century information company. The BlackBerry server infrastructure, combined with the vertical integration of the rest of their product lines, limits RIM to being a ‘places’ company. I suggest that shifting to a 21st century ‘spaces’ company might limit RIM’s exposure to presently ‘enjoyed’ governmental excesses by forcing governments to rearticulate notions of sovereignty in the face of networked governance.

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Mobiles and Your Identity

Today I want to just briefly talk about the competition between Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s Blackberry. I’m not going to bother with things like the aesthetics or the ease of using one over the other. Instead what I want to talk about is how these devices are, and will (in the iPhone’s case) be used. I’ll, as usual, provide a bit of background and then get to what is the real issue with these devices: unless secured, these devices, and other like them, can reveal a substantial amount about yourself and others, enough that it would be a relatively simple task to assume your identity and potentially negatively affect others’ identities/reputations.

Packing Some Confidential Property

I’ll admit it: whenever I go anywhere, my Blackberry comes with me. I use it to track all facets of my life: my contacts (i.e. who I know, what I know about them, notes that I see as important about them), my calendar (i.e. what I do at almost all points of my day, who I’m meeting with, why I’m meeting with them), my email (i.e the communication that I have and think should be recorded for a later date), and my instant messaging (i.e my personal discussions that let me be me with friends). This is super-convenient for me. It also means that I’m carrying a device that would give someone who found/stole it a significant insight into my life and some insight into the lives of people that I know.

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