BlackBerry, which is known for its superior security and privacy, could not live up to its promise of utmost safety in front of the Canadian federal police force, also known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This Canadian police force claims to have intercepted and decrypted more than a million messages sent through BlackBerry devices, says a report from Motherboard.
BlackBerry messages used as evidence
This was done during an investigation into a mafia slaying titled Project Clemenza, and it ran for two years from 2010 to 2012. The Crown used these messages and other evidence to mount a case against seven men held responsible for the murder of Sal “the Ironworker” Montagna. The victim was a reputed member of the New York Bonanno crime family. The case was named R. v. Mirarchi.
Christopher Parsons, privacy expert from the security research hub in Canada known as Citizen Lab, said the ability of reading the encrypted BlackBerry messages of any individual might still be with the RCMP, provided the phone isn’t linked to a corporate account.
Such revelations could have a negative effect on BlackBerry’s image. The company is already going through financial struggles, and the USP of its brand rests in the supposed security of its messaging system. Witnesses from the RCMP and BlackBerry testified during the case that if they revealed Blackberry’s encryption key, it would be bad for the Canadian smartphone maker’s business.
How did the RCMP get into the device?
BlackBerry uses a single “global encryption key” to for encrypt all messages sent between consumer phones, known as PIN-to-PIN or BBM messages. With the key, which is loaded onto every handset during manufacturing, it is possible to decrypt and read any message sent between consumer BlackBerry phones, according to the report from Motherboard.
How the RCMP got hold of the key has still been kept secret. There are three possibilities: it got it from BlackBerry itself; it independently swiped it from a device; or it took the help of a third-party contractor.
Recently, Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice had a court fight over the order for Apple to create software to unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Apple refused to do so, arguing it was a breach of security. The issue grabbed a lot of attention all around the world, but no comments on the issue have come from Canada’s police.