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BlackBerry security scare in France.

Smoothwall : 21 June, 2007  (Technical Article)
Smoothwall looks at the security risks of BlackBerry devices in light of the French security service statement that they fear sensitive date leaks through such devices.
News from Paris reveals that France's SGDN security service fears sensitive information could be leaked out through BlackBerry servers based in the US and the UK. The SGDN believes that there is a real risk that personal data assistants (PDAs) could be intercepted by third parties. Tom Newton, Product Manager of SmoothWall, believes it is all about assessing the risk-reward.

"There is obviously some reality behind the French fear of information leaks. Every time you allow a third party any sort of control over your data you give up some level of your security, even if this is just trusting a third party to transmit your encrypted data. In a perfect world, they can't read or modify it, but they can still lose it - and this could prove just as damaging.

"But are BlackBerries secure? If we simplify it, BlackBerries are mobile computing devices attached to the Internet. Show me a computing device attached to the Internet that can be said to be 100% secure. The same can be said for mobile computing devices in general.

"We don't have to travel far in this day and age to find a story about data going AWOL. It is not just the data being leaked from the US and UK servers that could prove risky here, there is also the issue that any mobile device, holding unencrypted critical data, can easily be lost. The best way to prevent this is to limit the number of places we keep our data.

"As usual, the responsibility lies with those commissioning the system, in this case, the French Government. Commissioned research into the security of BlackBerries, reports that US brokers dismantle their BlackBerry batteries in top-level meetings, and now this ban from the SGDN, shows that assessing the data Risk Management of BlackBerries is a worthwhile endeavour from the outset - for all organisations.

"It all boils down to risk-reward, if the BlackBerry service is essential and the risk is small, then they are worth investing in. But if the BlackBerry is just another executive toy to get left behind in the back of a taxi, then maybe not."

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