BlackBerry security worries: Germany bans government use

Having seen other countries impose restrictions on the use of RIM BlackBerry smartphones, the German government has now banned certain ministries from using the device.

The German Federal Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, has confirmed that a number of ministers and senior civil servants had been instructed to stop using BlackBerrys due to a "dramatic increase of attacks against" its networks. The minister said that a more widespread ban was under consideration following advice from the German federal office for information security (BSI).

The minister added that concerns had been raised over the possible risk of "political IT attacks" from organised crime and foreign security services. "The BlackBerry infrastructure is a closed proprietary system. [But] the access standard to our networks must be determined by the government and not by a private company," he told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

The German government is now recommending that a system specifically developed for government agencies and for handling classified data, SiMKo 2, be used in place of the RIM service. SiMKo2 enables secure end-to-end data transfers by enforcing VPN tunnelling on 2G or 3G connections and deactivates GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Three years ago, the French government implemented a plan barring the use of BlackBerrys for secure email and data exchange and adopted another specialised handset, Teorem. The German ministry was first advised to avoid using BlackBerry and iPhone devices in November 2009.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, India and some other countries have each recently requested access to encrypted BlackBerry communications, citing social and national security concerns.

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