BlackBerry has long been known for its stance on
mobile security, as it was the first mobile phone
maker to provide end-to-end encryption. But a
new report revealed that the company has
provided a master backdoor to law enforcement in
its secure devices since 2010.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have
been in possession of a global decryption key for
BlackBerry phones since 2010, according to a new
report from Vice News published yesterday.
The report suggests that the Canadian police used
the master key to intercept and decrypt over 1
Million messages sent using its own encrypted
and allegedly secure BlackBerry Messenger ( BBM)
service in a criminal investigation over the course
of 2 years.
Single Encryption Key to Protect All
The issue with Blackberry's security mechanism is
that the company uses a single global encryption
key to protect all its regular customers, though
the corporate BlackBerry phones use their own
encryption keys generated by corporate servers.
During a court trial of a 2011 murder case, the
RCMP revealed that it successfully unlocked
around 1 Million messages sent between
BlackBerry devices using the "appropriate
However, the important question here is: How did
the RCMP obtain that global key?
Neither the RCMP nor the prosecutor disclosed
exactly how the police obtained the appropriate
decryption key that can decrypt messages sent
through the BlackBerry Internet Service.
Moreover, the report itself don't have a satisfying
answer. However, the most logical answer is that
BlackBerry itself gave Canada's federal authorities
the access they wanted.
But besides this, the most important question now
is Whether or not the RCMP still has the key.
After the closure of " Project Clemenza ," a RCMP
investigation into a mafia-related murder,
BlackBerry changed its global encryption key. But
it is believed that the RCMP still has the ability to
decrypt BBM messages.
Recently in the battle with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) over device encryption , Apple
set an example for all tech companies by refusing
to comply with law enforcement for creating a
backdoor into the iPhone of San Bernardino
shooter Syed Farook.
The FBI later managed to hack into the iPhone
using an alternate method, but Apple tried its level
best to protect its customers' privacy and did not
hand over backdoor in its secure device to law
enforcement – though BlackBerry did just opposite
of it. BlackBerry has yet to comment on the matter.