Saturday, July 25, 2015

BlackBerry's enterprise services will no longer function in Pakistan

Pakistan's Ministry of Interior has decided to ban BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) within the country, due to what is referred to as "security reasons". A directive was issued on Friday, stating that the services should stop functioning by December 1, 2015.
BES is one of BlackBerry's many enterprise solutions and is primarily intended to create a secure and encrypted environment in which internal corporate emails can be sent with a high level of security. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server is usually used in conjunction with other platforms, such as Microsoft's Exchange server to give powerful control of organizations over their security, dealing with employee access levels, as well as secure synching of emails, calendars and contacts across devices. This, however, means that the services targeted by the directive are not centralized, but rather work within the internal networks of certain corporations, usually on private servers.
For one, this makes controlling and banning them highly difficult (blocking the traffic on a network provider lever does do the trick), not to mention questionable in legal terms. But, perhaps more-troubling is one Khurram Mehran's statement on the matter. As spokesman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which is charged with enforcing the decree, he claims that:
The decision to block the BES was taken on the directives of the interior ministry due to security reasons,
He then continues to explain what appears to be the actual root of the problem:
There was a challenge that the Blackberry email service could not be tracked or decoded, which leads to the security reasons,” he explained.
So, it would appear that the "security reason" boils down to the fact that the government wants to be able to keep taps on corporate email and BES just happens to be doing its job and prohibiting that from happening. This development actually comes after a recent report by Privacy International, which claims that Pakistan is currently in the process of setting up an electronic spy network and that the local Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is already tapping over 6,000 phones.
Sadly, this is not an isolated event within Pakistan. In 2011, BES was once again blocked, as part of an effort to deny access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks, allegedly hosting "blasphemous materials".
Whether we like it or not, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has already sent out emails to local service providers, informing them to block BES communication through their networks by December 1, so the measure is going to be implemented, for now at least. It is important to note that this will not affect BlackBerry’s Internet Services (BIS) within the county, so internet access to BlackBerry phones should be fine.

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