Sunday, June 24, 2007


Reading Between the Lines: a trilemma

It seems the French SGDN has said too much or too little. How confident are they that the encryption used by BlackBerry is too weak for government use? Why? I can think of three possibilities, and no way to decide among them:
  1. They (the French intelligence services) know the NSA can decrypt BlackBerry messages, either because they've been so informed, or because they (the French) can do it and so assume the NSA can too. This could be by a "backdoor", not necessarily by cracking codes.
  2. They can't decrypt the messages, and don't want government officials communicating with messages that can't be monitored. Historically (recent history), the French agencies have used "tableau d'écoute" (wiretaps) fairly often, and not necessarily with official authorisation or awareness.
  3. They presume that RIM will tell the NSA or Homeland Security whatever they "need" to know.

.Press clippings:
  • France bans BlackBerrys over fears of US intelligence snooping
    Seven million people worldwide may be addicted to them but the French government has said "non" to Le BlackBerry, fearing US intelligence agents could be snooping on state secrets.

    "The risks of interception are real. It is economic war," Alain Juillet, who is in charge of economic intelligence for the government, told Le Monde newspaper.

    The concern is that information sent from a BlackBerry gets routed via servers in the United States and Britain, and that this poses "a problem with the protection of information".

    Research In Motion, the company that makes the handheld devices, poured cold water on the French fears, saying there was no way that the US National Security Agency could see the content of messages that were transmitted .

    But Paris is clearly not convinced. France's General Secretariat for National Defence first declared the ban on BlackBerrys 18 months ago but recently had to send out another reminder.
  • La complainte du Blackberry dans les ministères

    Extrait : Une complainte récurrente monte, depuis la présidentielle, au sein des cabinets ministériels, à Matignon et à l'Elysée : l'interdiction d'utiliser le Blackberry, un assistant personnel permettant de téléphoner et de recevoir des courriers électroniques ( Le Monde du 9 juin). Débauchés dans des banques d'affaires, des cabinets d'avocats et des entreprises, ils n'en reviennent toujours pas. « On a le sentiment de perdre un temps fou, il faut réapprendre à travailler à l'ancienne, en fait de rupture, on vit plutôt une fracture technologique », s'exclame ce directeur de cabinet d'un grand ministère.
  • BlackBerry fools
    No addict enjoys the experience of cold turkey, even if the addictive substance is a handheld e-mail device. French officials seem to be no exception. The French security ministry, the SGDN, has warned incoming French cabinet ministers that they must quit the BlackBerry habit because US spies may be able to intercept their e-mailed communiqués. BlackBerry’s Canadian maker, Research in Motion Ltd, denies that there is any such risk. Officials complain that the SGDN is stuck in the past.
  • Les ministères se méfient des agendas électroniques
    Une circulaire interdisant l'usage des PDA dans les cabinets ministériels, à Matignon et à l'Elysée viendrait d'être renouvelée par le Secrétariat général de la défense nationale, qui souligne qu'aucun de ces appareils ne sécurise les données de façon totalement fiable ...
  • BlackBerry users warned of spying
    From Times Wire Reports -- June 21, 2007

    French government defense experts have advised against use of BlackBerry communication devices in government offices, reportedly to avoid snooping by U.S. intelligence agencies.

    E-mails sent from "Le BlackBerry" pass through servers in the United States and Britain, and France fears that makes the system vulnerable to snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency, Le Monde reported.

    Research in Motion, the company that makes BlackBerrys, denies that such spying is possible.
  • France Asks Top Officials To Banish BlackBerrys
    Associated Press
    Word Count: 296 | Companies Featured in This Article: Research In Motion

    PARIS -- French government defense experts have advised officials in France's corridors of power to stop using BlackBerry, reportedly to avoid snooping by U.S. intelligence agencies.

    Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story, described BlackBerry withdrawal among those who have given them up. "We feel that we are wasting huge amounts of time, having to relearn how to work in ...

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