The German weekly Der Spiegel is reporting that as early as 2010, the NSA and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, hacked into and were able to intercept messages sent over BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s Enterprise Server (BES). It is believed that in 2009, both groups were able to gain access to BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), the public and less secure form of the company’s e-mail delivery system.
BlackBerry difficult to crack
The magazine suggests that when the BES hack was made after years of trying, the success was marked by a scream of “Champagne” rather than “Eureka.” While this may seem moot given BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s declining market share, it’s been long held knowledge that BlackBerry was the more difficult to crack by techies and baddies alike.
The finding came from the sifting through of the thousands of documents NSA whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, released earlier this year.
One of the documents seen by Der Spiegel was a set of GCHQ presentation notes titled, “Your target is using a BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)? Now what?”
It’s believed the hack was finally achieved by the NSA’s elite Tailored Access Operation after a long battle with the software and network.
Secret unit of NSA
The TAO is a highly secret NSA unit that “specializes in surreptitiously installing spyware and tracking devices on targeted computers and mobile-phone networks.” According to the Washington Post, the unit played a large part in the capture of Osama bin Laden.
One document cited by Der Spiegel was an NSA assessment, “noting that Nokia devices were long favored in extremist forums, with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) following in third place and BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) ranking a distant ninth.” This understanding suggests that the NSA’s interest in the Blackberry was not solely for the fight against terror but for corporate and state-level espionage purposes.
A plus for Nokia (Microsoft)?
Documents proved by Snowden
An article last June in the Guardian, which was also based on documents provided by Mr. Snowden, showcased a GCHQ document which said: “What are our recent successes? BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) at G20. Delivered messages to analysts during the G20 in near real-time. Provided timely information to UK ministers.”
At the time it was widely believed that this was a reference to older BlackBerry models, something that this report brings into question.
BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) denied working with either agency, and said today, “Our public statements and principles have long underscored that there is no ‘back door’ pipeline to our platform,” something this report contradicts.
Much of this reporting was made possible by the Daily Globe & Mail.