Reuters announced that Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie of Canadian-based Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the ubiquitous Blackberry devices so popular with business people and politicians, suggested while speaking with reporters in Moscow recently that he believed companies in Russia could help in the development of new security technologies for handheld devices and smartphones.
In Moscow, the RIM CEO must speak with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has made known his love of Apple’s iPad, about possible business dealings. Balsillie and RIM are feeling pressure not just from Russia but several Middle Eastern countries, as well as India, to provide a means of breaching the notoriously tight security of its Blackberry devices, which are one of the main draws for its user base.
Blackberry messages are sent first to a RIM server, where they are encrypted before being sent out onto the Internet. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers to intercept them, which is why Russia and other countries in troubled areas want a back door of sorts that would allow them to decrypt messages sent by terrorists or other crime organizations. RIM ran into some of the same issues here in the United States several years ago, but the courts have declined to intervene.
RIM claims it doesn’t have a master key for its servers, and the passwords for individual accounts are known only to their users (which include the IT guys that run the systems through which the messages must run before being sent to an RIM server).
In such a system, terrorist and other crime organizations can and do set up their own IT departments, knowing others won’t be able to do anything more than note periods of time when traffic is high or low.
Balsillie, though, apparently believes that Russian companies, or even the government itself, might make a good partner for the development of a new different technology that could be perhaps as tough for hackers to penetrate as their current system but would allow for back door entrance by certain people with certain knowledge (hopefully for the greater good).
Whether this is all just lip service engineered by RIM to soften the Russian government toward its line of products, or a sincere effort, is purely speculation. What’s not is that RIM, in pursuing such deliberations, is inviting scorn from others who would see such a move as little more than providing tools for a government that is clearly moving ever so slowly back to the iron-fisted days of the Cold War, something RIM might want to consider more carefully before making a deal.