RCMP Seeks Backdoor Wiretap Access to Blackberry Messaging

CBC reports this evening that the RCMP is seeking backdoor wiretap access to Blackberry devices.  The law enforcement agency is concerned that email messaging with the Blackberry is secure and encrypted which raises fears that it is widely used by criminal elements.  Liberal MP Marlene Jennings touts her lawful access bill as the appropriate solution, while I respond with concerns about the impact on privacy and business.  I also argue – as has long been the case in the lawful access discussion – that before jumping into legislation solutions, law enforcement must first demonstrate that the current laws have created a real impediment to their investigations.


  1. Paul Coyle says:

    They’re a bit clueless
    By virtue of the fact that they’re concerned with _Blackberry_ security they expose themselves as completely clueless. If they’re concerned about that, oh boy are they going to be whimpering when they hear about SSL (hint: it is doubtful the whole interwebs will capitulate on that).

  2. US Clipper Chip
    This Private Members’ Bill by MP Marlene Jennings sounds reminiscent of the Clipper Chip efforts by the US government in the 1990s to compel telecommunications equipment manufacturers to build wiretap capabilities into their products

  3. More irrelevant laws…
    This is just as irrelevant as gun registration, except it could actually violate personal/business privacy for people who legitemately deserve it.

    Just like a gun registry does not prevent guns in the hands of criminals (what kind of criminal registers his gun?), this will have no impact on the encryption of criminal communications… they will either find other means to do so, or use another device/technology.

  4. Who trusts the Mounties?
    Does the RCMP actually think that anyone trusts them in this day and age? They are essentially asking for the tools to intercept messages regardless of whether they have a court order or not. I am pretty sure that all the telcos and RIM will obey court orders if asked. First thing they need to do is demonstrate how many times they have been unable to intercept messages with a court order.

  5. Heh more cluelessnes.
    I would like to see who is really sponsoring her bill and who is giving her information on the issue. RCMP is trying really hard to overreach their responsibility these days. And why does it seem that online rights are under attack from every corner of the world?

  6. LOL
    Does the CBC have anyone else’s number but yours, Michael, when it comes to info freedom / e-liberties issues? As great as some of your work is, it’s either a damning comment on the lack o’ resourcefulness at CBC, or the woeful laziness of Canadians Who Aren’t Michael Geist, that there’s seemingly nobody else who’s authoritative in the official Rolodex for this stuff.

    P.S. This lawful access stuff is such a tired rehash of the last go, and it’s just as irritating as I remember. The same disingenuous, simplistic analogies from our police chiefs, the same bland, vague appeal to need from dubiously-informed Liberal MPs — and the same tepid public reaction from Joe F-150/Timmies Canuck … [sigh]

  7. Joe F-150 and Timmies Canuck are loving it
    Dude, that’s exactly it.

    There’s been a mounting of propaganda over a lot of these privacy issues, and it’s largely capitalizing on pathos. The insufferable war cries of lame duck citizenry who know not what they speak of nor do they have a desire to learn, are par for the course unfortunately.

    My question is why can’t they get passed the encryption? Shouldn’t that be fairly easy for their tech teams?

  8. Ruth Walker says:

    I was under the impression that RIM has a cooperation arrangement with the Communication Security Establishment (CSE) whereby CSE assisted RIM in strengthening the security for the Blackberry. That would be spookspeak for “installed a backdoor” to get export licenses etc.

    Perhaps the RCMP request is really about formalizing the arrangement so they can introduce evidence in court without having to disclose the CSE backdoor capability.

    Who else knows about this?

  9. GoC PKI Blackberry
    Ruth, that’s a pretty serious leap and accusation. Yes, everyone in the field knows both NSA and CSEC have worked closely with RIM to better the technology for their own use (in the case of CSEC, to bolster support for GoC PKI and S/MIME to permit for wider, but still unclassified, use of the devices). These “co-operation” efforts should, in the next 2-5 years, lend RIM’s platform to support some types of classified communications. You’re suggesting the platform will be simultaneously backdoored AND upgraded for such use, or that NSA would still be doing this work if Canadian efforts had tainted the platform? I’m not personally about to go tarring everyone involved or assigning malice w/o evidence.

  10. Michael Dundas says:

    There is no need for new laws or back door taps. From a technology perspective, BES servers can intercept messages to and from a blackberry device. Think about it (the encryption key that is generated when a Blackberry connects to a BES device is generated between the blackberry and the BES server), it is not blackberry to blackberry. The BES Server is able to decrypt any transaction between it and the blackberry device. It could also write this out to a file for law enforcement (I would suggest that this might be a ‘special’ version of the software that is required, but I’d suggest it might exist).

    If LE has sufficient evidence, then they need to get a warrant from a judge. They can then force / order RIM to provide access to messages of the device in question. This is perfectly doable. They just prefer to not do this because there is nothing in it for them.

  11. Chuck Reece says:

    The RCMP have become cartoon characters in this country. Why don’t we just skip a step and go right to the inquiry after the RCMP screws this up. The politicos can travel the country on our dime endlessly seaching for answers.
    Once the trough is empty we can put it on the RCMP disaster shelf with Air India, Mayerthorpe and the Vancouver airport.

  12. David Hawkins says:

    Forensic economist
    Diversionary attacks on the RCMP won’t work anymore.

    The RCMP’s Entrust TruePass system has been backdoored by corrupt or treasonous certificate authorities CAs.

    I met a senior cop the other day who thought that CA was generated internally by RCMP.

    In fact CA for the RCMP is generated by Bruce McConnell (Clinton Rubin LLC), Sidley Austin (Obama law firm) and Macdonald Dettwiler (Controlled through the floor crossing Liberal-Conservative PC, David Emerson).

    Find out the PKI for training execrcises such as Amalgam Virgo and Global Guardian in 2001 and you will solve many mysteries, including 9/11.

    Hint look for former Deputy Commissioner of Canadian Coast Guard and Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security for the Department of Transport.