BlackBerry’s technology — aside from having once been the go-to mobile hardware and software for consumers, businesses, and government — made a name for itself in its security features. Despite its slide from the top, its prowess in the encryption field holds fast to this day, so much so that Pakistan’s Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has ordered local carriers to shut off the BlackBerry Enterprise Service and its internet and messaging services starting November 30th for “security reasons.”
BlackBerry’s encryption features have always been what has enticed businesses and government entities; in fact, the company recently received a new stamp of approval from the U.S. Department of Defense for the derived Public Key Infrastructure credentials on its BlackBerry operating system and BlackBerry 10 smartphones, according to FierceMobileIT. Yet, Pakistan’s government is clearly looking at the potential negatives of such encryption.
The banning of BlackBerry’s email and messaging services to all customers is a measure taken to prevent covert communication among terrorists. Wrestling with the Taliban and other insurgents, Pakistan sees secure communications as a threat, not a boon. The Guardian writes that Privacy International issued a report recently detailing how the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — Pakistan’s military intelligence agency — is working to significantly expand its ability to intercept communications.
Privacy International’s report details what exactly the ISI has been up to:
…in 2013 the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s best known intelligence agency, sought to commission a mass surveillance system to tap international undersea cables at three cable landing sites in southern Pakistan. The “Targeted IP Monitoring System and COE [Common Operations Environments]” would allow Pakistan to collect and analyse a significant portion of communications travelling within and through the country at a centralized command centre.
Encrypted communication obviously gets in the way of such surveillance plans. Over the last couple of years — particularly since Edward Snowden’s leaks regarding the surveillance tactics of the U.S.’s and U.K.’s, consumers and businesses have been looking more closely at encrypted devices. Some companies have produced new phones that self-destruct information or are “impenetrable.” FreedomPop, Silent Circle, and Boeing are just three companies that have been working on encrypted hardware and software aimed at appealing to the jaded users who care less about hot, mainstream devices and more about keeping eyes off their data.
It’s common knowledge that BlackBerry has failed to turnaround its mobile business; the tech world has watched the company tank in the face of Apple’s and Samsung’s dominance. But BlackBerry still maintains its secure products, and is clearly still of interest when it comes to the U.S. government, Pakistan’s government, and — if the PTA is right — terrorist organizations.