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Beware: Canadian cops may have access to BlackBerry’s encrypted messages

by Jacob Kleinman | April 14, 2016April 14, 2016 11:20 am PST

Apple may refuse to break its iPhone encryption for the FBI but, in Canada, BlackBerry appears to be taking a very different approach. Motherboard reports that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) may be able to read messages sent over the encrypted and allegedly-secure BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) network.

It turns out that BlackBerry uses a single global encryption key to protect all its regular customers, and Canadian authorities may have access that key. Your messages are safe if you have a company-issued phone, since each corporate account gets its own key, but general consumers are wide open.

The issue dates back to 2010, when the Canadian police used access to private BBM messages in a mafia investigation that ended in 2012. However, it’s unclear if authorities are still using this key. Motherboard notes that it’s unlikely BlackBerry swapped the encryption key for a new one, since that would require a massive update covering every device on the market.

BlackBerry also has a history of working with the authorities. Last year, CEO John Chen even penned a blog post slamming Apple for refusing to give police access to a criminal’s locked iPhone.

The Canadian phone maker has always put a big emphasis on security and, as it moves from its own operating system over to Android, it’s continued to push that as a key feature. But based on this new report BlackBerry’s products may not be as secure as we thought.


Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...