Obama has finally been able to ditch his BlackBerry handset, something which he was stuck with for more than six years. Mr. President appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and told the audience that it was only this year that he was able to get a real smartphone. There's one caveat, though. The Android smartphone Obama has gotten is a "hardened" version, with pretty much all the unrequired features removed from it. Laughing with the audience, Obama said, the phone feels like the fake toy handset kids play with. ArsTechnica, citing documentations, claim that Obama is using a Samsung Galaxy S4 (a phone that was released in 2013), as it is the only smartphone currently supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency. From the report: The S4 is currently the only device supported under DISA's DOD Mobility Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) program. In 2014, a number of Samsung devices were the first to win approval from the National Security Agency under its National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program -- largely because of Samsung's KNOX security technology. And the S4, layered with services managed by DISA, is the first commercial phone to get approval to connect to the Secret classified DOD SIPRNet network. DISA has been working with vendors and the National Security Agency's Information Assurance Directorate to develop a Top Secret-capable mobile device for use by the Defense Department and the national leadership both on the move and within secure facilities. But currently, the highest level of classification that can be handled by commercial devices under the DMCC program is at the Secret level. Secretary of State John Kerry was a DMCC-S early adopter, and he served as a beta tester of the hardened Galaxy S4.
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Reader Dr Caleb writes: A specialized unit inside mobile firm BlackBerry has for years enthusiastically helped intercept user data -- including BBM messages -- to help in hundreds of police investigations in dozens of countries, a CBC News investigation reveals. For instance, citing a number of sources, CBC says that BlackBerry intercepted messages to aid investigators probing the political scandals in Brazil that are dogging suspended President Dilma Rousseff. The company also helped authenticate BBM messages in Major League Baseball's drug investigation that saw New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez suspended in 2014. One document obtained by CBC News reveals how the Waterloo, Ont.-based company handles requests for information and co-operates with foreign law enforcement and government agencies, in stark contrast with many other tech companies. "We were helping law enforcement kick ass," said one person.
Once an icon in the smartphone business, BlackBerry is having a hard time transitioning to Android. According to a report on CNET, the company's BlackBerry Priv Android smartphone, citing a high-level executive at AT&T, is really struggling. From the report: AT&T offered a more detailed account of why the Priv has disappointed. BlackBerry and the carrier expected to see demand for an Android phone with a physical keyboard. Instead, most of the buyers were BlackBerry loyalists, the executive said. Those faithful, however, struggled with the transition from the BlackBerry operating system to the Android operating system, leading to a higher-than-expected rate of return. BlackBerry's decision to market the phone as a high-end device also hurt its prospects, the executive said. The Priv initially sold unlocked for $699, above the starting price of the iPhone 6S, which sells for $650. Few premium phones have fared well beyond devices from Apple and Samsung.
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On The Wire: The Federal Trade Commission has sent comments to the Department of Commerce, outlining a list of concerns about the security and privacy of connected and embedded devices, saying that while many IoT devices have tangible benefits for consumers, "these devices also create new opportunities for unauthorized persons to exploit vulnerabilities." One of the key security problems that researchers have cited with IoT devices is the impracticality of updating them when vulnerabilities are discovered. Installing new firmware on light bulbs or refrigerators is not something most consumers are used to, and many manufacturers haven't contemplated those processes either. The FTC said the lack of available updates is a serious problem for consumers and businesses alike. "Although similar risks exist with traditional computers and computer networks, they may be heightened in the IoT, in part because many IoT chips are inexpensive and disposable, and many IoT devices are quickly replaceable with newer versions. As a result, businesses may not have an incentive to support software updates for the full useful life of these devices, potentially leaving consumers with vulnerable devices. Moreover, it may be difficult or impossible to apply updates to certain devices," the FTC comments say. In early May, the FTC issued a 10-page letter to eight leading players in the mobile communications arena requiring them to tell the agency how they issue security patches.
It's almost unbelievable today that BlackBerry ruled the smartphone market once. The Canadian company's handset, however, started to lose relevance when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. At the time, BlackBerry said that nobody would purchase an iPhone, as there's a battery trade-off. Wittingly or not, Apple could end up in a similar position to BlackBerry, argues Marco Arment. Arment -- who is best known for his Apple commentary, Overcast and Instapaper apps, and co-founding Tumblr -- says that Apple's strong stand on privacy is keeping it from being the frontrunner in the advanced AI, a category which has seen large investments from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon in the recent years. He adds that privacy cannot be an excuse, as Apple could utilize public data like the web, mapping databases, and business directories. He writes: Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for. If they're right -- and that's a big "if" -- I'm worried for Apple. Today, Apple's being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritise those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they're able to do, despite being very good at it, won't be enough anymore, and they won't be able to catch up. Where Apple suffers is big-data services and AI, such as search, relevance, classification, and complex natural-language queries. Apple can do rudimentary versions of all of those, but their competitors -- again, especially Google -- are far ahead of them, and the gap is only widening. And Apple is showing worryingly few signs of meaningful improvement or investment in these areas. Apple's apparent inaction shows that they're content with their services' quality, management, performance, advancement, and talent acquisition and retention. One company that is missing from Mr. Arment's column is Microsoft. The Cortana-maker has also placed large bets on AI. According to job postings on its portal, it appears, for instance, that Microsoft is also working on Google Home-like service.
coondoggie quotes a report from Networkworld: The Federal Trade Commission today said it issued a 10-page letter to eight leading players in the mobile communications arena requiring them to tell the agency how they issue security updates to address vulnerabilities in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC America, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung must provide the following: The factors that they consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular mobile device, detailed data on the specific mobile devices they have offered for sale to consumers since August 2013, the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices, and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities.
Last week, a report, citing court documents, claimed that Canadian police have had BlackBerry's global decryption key since 2010. Today BlackBerry CEO John Chen officially commented on the report. In a blog post, Chen reiterated that his company remains committed to doing what is "right for the citizenry," without confirming if the Candian police have the "global encryption key." "I have stated before that we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good," Chen wrote, adding that the company's cooperation with the Canadian police resulted in shutting down a criminal organization. He adds: Regarding BlackBerry's assistance, I can reaffirm that we stood by our lawful access principles. Furthermore, at no point was BlackBerry's BES server involved. Our BES continues to be impenetrable -- also without the ability for backdoor access -- and is the most secure mobile platform for managing all mobile devices. That's why we are the gold standard in government and enterprise-grade security. For BlackBerry, there is a balance between doing what's right, such as helping to apprehend criminals, and preventing government abuse of invading citizen's privacy, including when we refused to give Pakistan access to our servers. (Update). We have been able to find this balance even as governments have pressured us to change our ethical grounds. Despite these pressures, our position has been unwavering and our actions are proof we commit to these principles. To recall, Chen criticized Apple last year when the iPhone maker refused to unlock a terrorist's iPhone. At the time, he said, Apple was "putting reputation above the greater good."
Justin Ling and Jordan Pearson, reporting for Vice News: A high-level surveillance probe of Montreal's criminal underworld shows that Canada's federal policing agency has had a global encryption key for BlackBerry devices since 2010. The revelations are contained in a stack of court documents that were made public after members of a Montreal crime syndicate pleaded guilty to their role in a 2011 gangland murder. The documents shed light on the extent to which the smartphone manufacturer, as well as telecommunications giant Rogers, cooperated with investigators. According to technical reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that were filed in court, law enforcement intercepted and decrypted roughly one million PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages in connection with the probe. The report doesn't disclose exactly where the key -- effectively a piece of code that could break the encryption on virtually any BlackBerry message sent from one device to another -- came from. But, as one police officer put it, it was a key that could unlock millions of doors. Government lawyers spent almost two years fighting in a Montreal courtroom to keep this information out of the public record. Motherboard has published another article in which it details how Canadian police intercept and read encrypted BlackBerry messages. "BlackBerry to Canadian court: Please don't reveal the fact that we backdoored our encryption," privacy and security activist Christopher Soghoian wittily summarizes the report. "Canadian gov: If you use Blackberry consumer encryption, you're a "dead chicken".
BlackBerry, on Monday, announced it is making all the privacy features in BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) messaging app free to use. Prior to the announcement, the Canadian company charged $1 monthly premium subscription for the advanced privacy and control features. From the company's blog post: These enhanced privacy and control features give users full ownership over what they share through BBM -- even after it leaves their phone. With "Retract," users can retract messages and pictures from recipients they sent mistakenly or no longer wish to make accessible. "Timer," meanwhile, gives users control over how long their contacts can view shared messages, pictures, or location information.
Meshach writes with a link to news that as of yesterday, Facebook and WhatsApp have both discontinued support for Blackberry smartphones including BlackBerry 10 and BBOS platforms. Apparently Blackberry fought to have the support continue but in the end they were not successful. BlackBerry has had to replaced their official Facebook App with a native app that uses a simple web interface. If you're still using a Blackberry, it would be interesting to know why. (You like the interface? Business requirement? Just being contrarian?)
An anonymous reader writes from an article on Ars Technica: When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pushing to get a waiver allowing her to use a BlackBerry like President Barack Obama back in 2009, the National Security Agency had a very short list of devices approved for classified communications. The General Dynamics' Sectera Edge and L3 Communications' Guardian were the two devices built for the Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device (SME PED) program. They were the only devices anyone in government without an explicit security waver (like the one the president got, along with his souped-up BlackBerry 8830) could use until as recently as last year to get mobile access to top secret encrypted calls and secure e-mail. At the time Clinton was asking for a phone, only the Sectera Edge was available (the Guardian was running behind in development) and it required multiple server-side and phone-side e-mail additions, desktop synchronization software, and other supporting products. The "Executive Kit" version of the Edge, priced for government purchase at $4,750, included: Type 1 Sectera Edge (GSM or CDMA) device plus: Executive Carry Case, Leather Holster Travel Charger, Red/Black USB Cables, Vehicle Charger, Earbud, Stylus 10-pack, microSD Card with User Manual, Spare Battery, Privacy Shield 4-pack, Antivirus Software, Apriva Email Client and Perpetual Rights fee and Office Suite for Windows CE.
An anonymous reader writes from an article on CBSNews: Newly released emails show a 2009 request to issue a secure government smartphone to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was denied by the National Security Agency. Clinton's desire for a secure "BlackBerry-like" device, like the one provided to President Barack Obama, is recounted in a series of February 2009 exchanges between high-level officials at the State Department and NSA. Clinton was sworn in as secretary the prior month, and had become "hooked" on reading and answering emails on a BlackBerry she used during the 2008 presidential race. "We began examining options for (Secretary Clinton) with respect to secure 'BlackBerry-like' communications," wrote Donald R. Reid, the department's assistant director for security infrastructure. "The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure, and is very expensive." Reid wrote that each time they asked the NSA what solution they had worked up to provide a mobile device to Obama, "we were politely told to shut up and color."
dkatana writes: There is no shortage of news about the fight between Apple and the Justice Department to unlock the iPhone of a suspect in the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist case. Apple can take a page from the fight BlackBerry had back in 2010 with some governments in the Middle East and Asia. At that time -- afraid to lose a lucrative business -- RIM [gave] in and allowed those governments to access its secure BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) service. The rest is history. If Apple complies with the Justice Department request, according to Craig Federighi, senior VP of software engineering at Apple, "[This software -- which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones --] would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all."
Lucas123 writes: In its rush to gather information, the FBI blew its chance to retrieve data from the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists when it ordered his iCloud passcode to be reset shortly after the attacks. Now in its fervor to force Apple to create software that can break its own encryption algorithm, the FBI may be opening a security hole to federal agencies. Over the past four years, the federal government has largely shifted its use of mobile devices from Blackberry to iPhones. One major reason for that is -- you guessed it -- the strong native security. If Apple creates an iPhone skeleton key, it not only threatens the public's privacy, but the security of the federal government as well.
nerdyalien writes: While everybody is immersed in the Apple vs. FBI case, WhatsApp has posted a blog entry that could potentially alter the mobile landscape as we know it today. By the end of 2016, WhatsApp will no longer support many older mobile operating systems from BlackBerry, Nokia, Android and Windows Phone. Moving forward, WhatsApp will only support the latest and greatest iPhone, Android and Windows Phone platforms. With over 1 billion active users, and the backing of Facebook, is WhatsApp finally reducing the mobile landscape to a three-horse race ?
schwit1 writes: Police in two countries have claimed that they can read encrypted data from BlackBerry devices that are being marketed as having "military-grade security." The story originally broke when Dutch website Misdaadnieuws (Crime News) published documents from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), a Dutch law enforcement agency, stating that police were able to access deleted messages and read encrypted emails on so-called BlackBerry PGP devices. A representative from NFI confirmed that "we are capable of obtaining encrypted data from BlackBerry PGP devices," according to a report from Motherboard. On Tuesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also told Motherboard they can crack encrypted messages on PGP BlackBerrys.
LichtSpektren writes: BlackBerry Ltd. launched its first Android smartphone in October 2015, the BlackBerry Priv. CEO John Chen has commented "so far, so good" on the Priv's sales, two months in. Also in the same month, the BlackBerry developers' blog posted that there are no plans to make enhancements to BlackBerry OS 10 except for privacy and security updates. Now CNET is reporting that BlackBerry will release "one or two" new Android phones in 2016, but nothing with BB10.
An anonymous reader writes: At the end of November, BlackBerry announced it would pull its operations out of Pakistan after the country's government demanded access to BlackBerry's user data. The Pakistan government has now dropped that request, and BlackBerry will continue operating there as a result. In a statement, BlackBerry COO Marty Beard said, "We are grateful to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistani government for accepting BlackBerry's position that we cannot provide the content of our customers' BES traffic, nor will we provide access to our BES servers."
nerdyalien writes: There's a litany of problems with apps. There is the platform lock-in and the space the apps take up on the device. Updating apps is a pain that users often ignore, leaving broken or vulnerable versions in use long after they've been allegedly patched. Apps are also a lot of work for developers—it's not easy to write native apps to run on both Android and iOS, never mind considering Windows Phone and BlackBerry. What's the alternative? Well, perhaps the best answer is to go back to the future and do what we do on desktop computers: use the Web and the Web browser.
An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry has announced that it will pull its operations in Pakistan from today, quoting a recent government notice which read that the company would not be permitted to continue its services in the country after December for 'security reasons.' In a blog post released by BlackBerry today, chief operating officer Marty Beard confirmed the decision: 'The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES e-mail and BES BBM message.' He added: 'BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive.'