Strong encryption of wireless technology not unique: BlackBerry

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Research in Motion (RIM) stocks sank to a 17-month low as the BlackBerry maker Thursday said that use of strong encryption in wireless technology is not unique to them and “it is unquestionably an industry wide matter”.

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Slipping 1.9 percent, RIM stock closed at $46.84 on the Nasdaq – the lowest since April 1, 2009. The stock also dived 2.4 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange, closing at $49.45.

In what analysts and the media here described as an attempt by RIM to buy time from India and drag competitors into the issue, RIM Thursday issued a statement to shift focus from its messenger service to encrypted data generally.

“The use of strong encryption in wireless technology is not unique to the BlackBerry platform. It is unquestionably an industry wide matter,” RIM argued in its statement.

The BlackBerry maker, which has more than one million subscribers in India, said: “Strong encryption has become a mandatory requirement for all enterprise-class wireless email services today and is also a fundamental commercial requirement for any country to attract and maintain international business.

“Similarly strong encryption is currently used pervasively in traditional VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) on both wired and wireless networks in order to protect corporate, government and law enforcement communications.”

Singling out and banning the BlackBerry solution, the statement said, would be “ineffective and counter-productive”.

It would be ineffective because anyone perpetrating the misuse of the technology would continue to have easy access to other wireless and wireline services that utilise strong encryption and are readily available in the market today.

“It would also be counter-productive since it would unnecessarily disrupt the business operations of many customers without ever achieving the stated objective.”

The statement added that RIM “is extending an offer to the government of India whereby RIM would lead an industry forum focused on supporting the lawful access needs of law enforcement agencies while preserving the legitimate information security needs of corporations and other organisations in India”.

“In particular, the industry forum would work closely with the Indian government and focus on developing recommendations for policies and processes aimed at preventing the misuse of strong encryption technologies while preserving its many societal benefits in India.”

The statement said that “finding the right balance to address both regulatory and commercial needs in this matter is an ongoing process and RIM has assured the government of India of its continued support and respect for India’s legal and national security requirements”.

Stressing that strong encryption is an important industry matter in a booming India, RIM said: “Three facts are clear. First, as India continues its path of strong economic growth and increasing international business, the need to protect the integrity and security of sensitive corporate information through strong encryption-based information and communications services will grow. Banning such strong encryption-based information and communications services would severely limit the effectiveness and productivity of India’s corporations.

“Second, many countries around the world are putting in place additional policies and processes to properly address this challenge and prevent the misuse of strong encryption technologies.

“Third, this challenge can only be truly overcome if the Information and Communications Technology industry comes together as a whole to work with the Government of India.”

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])