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Spyware In BlackBerry Updates For Users in the UAE 116

Posted by timothy
from the this-could-happen-in-$yourcountry-too dept.
mulaz writes with this excerpt from The Register: "An update pushed out to BlackBerry users on the Etisalat network in the United Arab Emirates appears to contain remotely-triggered spyware that allows the interception of messages and emails, as well as crippling battery life. Sent out as a WAP Push message, the update installs a Java file that one curious customer decided to take a closer look at, only to discover an application intended to intercept both email and text messages, sending a copy to an Etisalat server without the user being aware of anything beyond a slightly excessive battery drain."
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Spyware In BlackBerry Updates For Users in the UAE

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  • How slightly? (Score:5, Informative)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:31PM (#28707891) Homepage Journal

    slightly excessive battery drain

    As a crackberry user myself, I can tell you that sometimes a change in battery life isn't even something I would worry much about. Considering the number of applications that many of us have on our 'berries, the number we have in the background at any given time, and the amount we use the applications in the foreground, a noticeable shift in battery life between Tuesday and Wednesday might not be considered abnormal. I know there are people who just charge every night religiously because they always want to start with a full battery in the morning; if they ended at 45% instead of 55% they might not think anything of it as long as their charge made it to the end of the day.

    On the other hand if they normally end at 45% and now they don't make it through the day, they would likely notice that.

  • Re:UAE - no surprise (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:32PM (#28707919)

    *cough* NSA [pbs.org] *cough*

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:53PM (#28708133) Homepage

    Supposedly, e-mail between the company's server and the device is encrypted (although at one time, there were some protests to using Blackberries because the messages pass through RIM's servers which were located somewhere in Canada - I don't know if that's still the case).

  • by cvolny (1583581) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:57PM (#28708177)
    From the Register: "While text messages and phone calls are usually more easily intercepted at the network operator, the BlackBerry architecture doesn't lend itself to that kind of legally-authorised interception, which has caused problems in several other countries. It seems probable that this application was an attempt by the authorities to circumvent that architecture, and it will be interesting to see if a similar application appears on competing UEA operators."
  • Re:UAE - no surprise (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:22PM (#28708495)

    "As far as non-north-american countries go - the UAE is very progressive" Hahahahaha, ahem, sorry I mean LOL. Are you serious? What's so "progressive" about north american countries? Different isn't better per se. "in North America we are an odd country and culture - we simply take it as the norm that nobody will listen to us" That's at least a generalisation, and some might say naive. "a foreigner in a position of influence that he would be monitored regularly if not constantly." Yes, that would never happen in north America.

    Where shall I start? Women's Rights Minority Rights Freedom of Assembly Voting And this is just for starters. The UAE is very progressive, in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries, but still many decades behind the "decadent" West.

  • Re:UAE - no surprise (Score:5, Informative)

    by julian67 (1022593) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:38PM (#28708687)
    Yes it's so progressive that every new car comes with a tracking device built in so the govt always knows where you're driving. It also knows when you go to fast. They have this amzing system whereby if you drive over the speed limit a siren sounds in your car and gets louder and louder until you slow down to within the limit. Driving around Dubai you'll be passed by speeding cars with a terrible wailing siren sounding out over the terrible bass heavy music. These drivers are Emiratis, locals (70% of the population is foreign workers). They won't have to pay the fine so as long as they can stand the noise they'll drive as fast as they like. It's a bizarre phenomenon. It's absolutely no surprise that the state monopoly telco would also like access to all your communications whatever device you use. Skype is banned, and tor is blocked and using any privacy enhancing encryption leads not to the unfettered web but to the court house. Also progressive: jail time for sex outside of marriage, deportation with no notice if your boss withdraws your work permit and so on. I guess it looks progressive next to Saudi, but mostly it isn't progressive, only rich.
  • No, not interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:55PM (#28708907)

    It's just a typo in the link, and for some reason the 404 page says "deleted" instead of just "not found". If you read the elreg comments page, you can find the corrected URL and the thread is still live:

    http://supportforums.blackberry.com/rim/board/message?board.id=BlackBerryDeviceSoftware&thread.id=5632&view=by_date_ascending&page=1 [blackberry.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:55PM (#28708911)

    It was sent as a WAP push (a bit like sending something to a PC as an email attachment and saying "please run me"). They wouldn't have needed RIM's help to do it (although assistance from someone who (a) had a clue and (b) was evil would have helped them achieve their goal with less comical results). RIM are unlikely to have wanted to assist because it's not exactly a "good news" story for them.

    Carriers do have a level of control over what a Blackberry based on their network can do by controlling what "service books" are sent to a device but software distributions tend not to vary.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by tolan-b (230077) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#28709951)

    > By the way, I know how healthcare works in Europe.
    > "Oh, you have insurance, come ahead now." Maybe
    > Greece and Italy aren't part of Europe, but your
    > universal healthcare seems to be a case of some
    > pigs are more equal.

    Eh? Can't comment on anywhere else, but in the UK having insurance makes no difference to your treatment in the NHS. It means you can go to a private provider, but it makes no difference to your NHS provision.

  • Re:UAE - no surprise (Score:4, Informative)

    by julian67 (1022593) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:16PM (#28709961)

    If you have a new car (purchased in the last 2 years) it has a tracker in the license plate. I know this is true in Dubai, it may be different in other emirates. You will get in some deep trouble if the license plates are not affixed properly or appear to have been tampered with. You can see traffic accidents where the cops arrive, check the license plates are affixed and in order (on the right vehicle) and then their work is done and they leave. Same for the speed siren (maybe siren isn't the best term but when it's going at full volume it's impressive...can be heard very loudly from inside other cars...all mobile with windows up and aircon on)....it starts of as a gentle reminder and gets louder and louder and louder....

    I hadn't mentioned homosexuality and I don't equate sex outside of marriage with homosexuality (necessarily).

    Adultery = prison in UAE.

    Dubai is liberal only compared to states where full sharia law is practised. If you're a foreigner or a local who dresses western style yes you can drink alcohol and if you're on a tourist visa you can share a hotel room with your partner without being married. If you're local or have a resident visa then you had better be very careful about your private life and keep it extremely private, even secret if you sleep with anyone other than your spouse. You'll notice that nobody in local dress is ever seen drinking alcohol. They won't be served and may have a lot of explaining to do. Similarly at the duty free shops and on UAE airlines an Arab won't get a drink unless in western clothes. It's a distinctly odd place where appearance is everything. You can *kind of* do as you please as long as you're furtive and don't embarrass anyone or do anything unconventional publicly. This 'freedom' doesn't extend to expressing yourself freely or to accessing uncensored tv, radio, or internet.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#28710221) Journal
    A good general rule of thumb is, If you dont want to be tracked or monitored, dony carry a cell phone, because at some point or another they ALL have ways of tracking you.
  • Re:UAE - no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by julian67 (1022593) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:56PM (#28710431)
    Why do foreigners live there? Generous salaries and no tax. I'm not sure many people want to set up home permanently but if you can work there for a higher salary than at home, pay no tax, get generous benefits (health, a house etc) then in 5 or 10 years you can have saved a really big pile. For workers from India, Pakistan, Philipines etc there aren't the generous benefits and nice accommodation but they can make a lot more than at home especially if they are skilled. They can go home at the end of their contract and buy a home or set up a business, pay off their family's debts etc. For them it beats a life of guaranteed breadline existence.

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