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Obama To Get Secure BlackBerry 8830 191

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-back-worn-radio-controller-devices dept.
CWmike writes "President Barack Obama is set to receive a high-security BlackBerry 8830 soon, The Washington Times reported today. The device is said to be in the final stages of development at the National Security Agency, which will check that its encryption software meets federal standards. It might not be ready for months. It was reported that Obama will be able to send text and e-mail messages and make phone calls on the device, but only to those with the secure software loaded on their own devices. The list includes First Lady Michelle Obama and top aides. The security software is made by Genesis Key, whose CEO, Steven Garrett, is quoted as saying: 'We're going to put his BlackBerry back in his hand.' The Sectera Edge was pegged in January by analysts as the top device choice because of its reputation for secure data communications when used by other federal workers. And there are many reasons why Obama might have been told 'no' on his BlackBerry. But Obama may wish he had chosen a Sectera if BlackBerry has more outage problems like its latest last week, which meant no mobile e-mail for hours across the US."
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Obama To Get Secure BlackBerry 8830

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  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:03AM (#27700105) Homepage Journal

    I am in line waiting for similar software to drive any portable device for communication I want to use.

    So in other words, how long before laws are drafted keeping the good stuff out of our hands under the guise of it only aids criminals? I can see it all now, a new email bill of rights that somehow strips me of the ones I need or have.

    I like the idea of the President having access to good, safe, and reliable, technology like this. I just hope that trickle down occurs.

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      So in other words, how long before laws are drafted keeping the good stuff out of our hands under the guise of it only aids criminals?

      They tried that [wikipedia.org] back in the 90s and it didn't go so well. There's nothing stopping you from using encryption on your cellular phone as it stands now. Back when I was in GSM land I was kind of hoping to get my hands on an OpenMoko and design an encryption system for SMS. It wouldn't be that hard to implement for secure text messaging. Voice may be harder but should still be doable by someone with the right skill set.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        Back when I was in GSM land I was kind of hoping to get my hands on an OpenMoko and design an encryption system for SMS. It wouldn't be that hard to implement for secure text messaging. Voice may be harder but should still be doable by someone with the right skill set.

        What's wrong with encrypted VOIP and email? Tried, tested, and the provider can't fuck it up for you.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        If you encrypt SMS the message will simply be too long. Email on the other hand does not suffer from such limitations.

        • If you encrypt SMS the message will simply be too long. Email on the other hand does not suffer from such limitations.

          To encrypt you need to compress. The encrypted message could easily be smaller than the plain text.

          • Encryption does not require compression. Take a look at NTFS where you can do one or the other, but not both. OTOH, with typical SMS message sizes compression wouldn't be too helpful. I think the GP was referring to the added header size necessary with encryption, but any modified protocol should be able to account for that.
    • by Jurily (900488)

      I am in line waiting for similar software to drive any portable device for communication I want to use.

      What are you talking about?

      We already have something like that [wikipedia.org]. It won't run on devices with hardwired OSes of course, but nothing else will, either. Did I miss your point?

    • You can already get this stuff. Speakeasy (Sold by Telecom - now Telstra) is a nice little encryption box for your normal POTS system. If you are using Symbian there are a few applications around already that will encrypt your voice. Or you could just use VOIP and your own SIP server or something.

    • I just hope that trickle down occurs.

      It had better, as we are paying for it.

      • No, we didn't. What are you 5 years old.

        This is an existing product that is being evaluated for use by the President. By this logic, if the President wanted to use GCC and compile Ubuntu on his laptop, and the NSA evaluated those two products, then we can claim to have ownership of GCC and Ubuntu.

        I had mod points, but you hear convoluted logic like yours expressed on Slashdot all the time.

    • by fdisk3hs (513270)

      If anyone is interested in helping out, there is the talklock project. [sourceforge.net] I started it a little over a year ago to do voice encryption for Blackberries, and as many mobile Java devices as possible.

      Most of the pieces are there now, but it is not complete. There are screenshots [sourceforge.net] available and it is GPL.

      It can record audio and play audio, and send and receive audio from a web server. I even hacked together a shell script on my Mac to listen to the audio so I could test the code with only one phone :)

      I agree, th

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:04AM (#27700113) Journal

    I've been successfully resisting efforts by my boss to give me a Blackberry for the last two years. I've seen what it does to co-workers and friends who have them and have no desire to spend half of my next vacation (or weekend or day off) responding to e-mails that could wait. If it's really important they'll call me. If it's not then I guess they can figure it out on their own. I know that some people find them useful but I don't count myself as being one of them.

    As an aside, TFA says that the NSA is reviewing the security software. I wonder if they got access to the rest of the source-code and reviewed all of the other software? What does full time encryption do to the battery life and response time of the blackberry? I also wonder if the same restrictions that apply to other Federal workers regarding electronic devices will apply to his Blackberry? Will it be clipped to his waist when he's in the situation room [wikipedia.org] dealing with the next international crisis? Or will he have to keep it out of secured areas?

    • I have a cousin who is addicted to his CrackBerry. His wife gave him an ultimatum: "Either you take THAT or ME on our next vacation. Not both."

      As an aside, TFA says that the NSA is reviewing the security software. I wonder if they got access to the rest of the source-code and reviewed all of the other software?

      I wonder if the NSA has the opportunity to build in back doors, so that they can snoop on the President's communication?

      56 bit encryption, indeed.

    • I had a Blackberry Storm foisted upon me (something about making the numbers up to get the next data bundle). But from the outset I made it very clear that outside of working hours the notification options will be set to Phone Calls Only (i.e. no tones or vibrate on texts and e-mails) and Iâ(TM)ll check e-mails at my leisure.

      Without being to hostile or overzealous I find myself constantly having to remind people that e-mail is an asynchronous communications medium.

      And as for the Storm - nice screen goo

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        But from the outset I made it very clear that outside of working hours the notification options will be set to Phone Calls Only (i.e. no tones or vibrate on texts and e-mails)

        I thought about that but I'd have two problems with that:

        1) My network monitoring setup sends me SMS'es if it detects problems. Silencing these notifications would defeat the purpose of having them.
        2) It would destroy the utility of SMS for personal reasons. I don't want to carry separate phones for work and personal (I've already got enough crap hooked to my belt without adding a second phone) so I'd have to give up on SMS from my friends or deal with notifications for stuff that I don't care about.

        • by mdielmann (514750)

          1) My network monitoring setup sends me SMS'es if it detects problems. Silencing these notifications would defeat the purpose of having them.

          The settings on a Blackberry allow you to silence email without affecting SMS.
          There's no simple solution to issue 2, though.

    • You've seen what the device does to people or what people do to themselves? The device has a power button, don't be weak and turn it off.
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        The device has a power button, don't be weak and turn it off.

        That kind of defeats the point of having a cell phone, doesn't it? My cell phone is my only phone. I don't feel like I should have to cut off all of my friends just to avoid stupidity from the office, nor do I want to carry separate devices for work and pleasure.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rts008 (812749)

        People will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid taking personal responsibility anymore it seems.

        Of course it can't be the stupid person's fault..it has to be that evil Blackberry possessing their soul.

        And turn it off? Ohhh, no! can't do that..might miss an important viagra email...from a Nigerian Prince!

        At an earlier job, one of these obnoxious devices was foisted on me. It never made sense to me, as nothing in my job was 'time critical', but 'everybody is going to this' was the reason. I tried warning them

        • by Burning1 (204959)

          People will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid taking personal responsibility anymore it seems.

          Of course it can't be the stupid person's fault..it has to be that evil Blackberry possessing their soul.

          When you don't have the ability to be contacted by email 24/7, people don't tend to expect you to be available 24/7.

          Beyond that, some people have a hard time removing their brain from work mode. Personally, I don't want to think about work until I go in the next day. Having a pager handy kind of forces the issue

    • They are a nice device for personal use. I'd never get one for work, though, as it is then expected you are checking the thing all the time. No thanks. Like you said, the culture around those things is wrong, and if it's important, they should call you.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      I couldn't agree more.

      I don't do that shit. If someone wants me to work like that they can very well call me and talk to me. E-mail is too easy.

      I have realized that work doesn't go away, there is always more, if I worked after hours that is all I would do. It will still be there tomorrow when I come in to work.

      I have also realized that 99.9% of the time when there is an emergency, and is needed yesterday, etc... it means that someone didn't plan, or didn't do their own work. It is not my job to bail them ou

    • by fm6 (162816)

      I've seen what it does to co-workers and friends who have them and have no desire to spend half of my next vacation (or weekend or day off) responding to e-mails that could wait.

      You can always turn the thing off. "Gee, I must have been out of range!" Or just not check the thing more than every couple of hours. Your co-workers and friends' problem is not that they have BBs; its that they get all compulsive about keeping up with them.

      Mind you, I won't ever get one either. Not because they're intrusive away from work, but because they're distracting at work. Some of us just aren't that good at divided attention tasks. Obviously we're wired much different from people who carry BBs, not

  • Hey, I got an idea. Lets give one to every member of Congress!
  • 6821 years? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:05AM (#27700125)

    From the title I thought it would take 6821 years to develop a secure BlackBerry.

  • also get secure Blackberries?

    (I assume his immediate family will, as well as WH coworkers, but friends and so on?)

  • Hey, its part of what endeared him to me, not just for the tech side of it, but the fact that he likes to stay connected and on top of things.
  • Usefulness limited? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by worip (1463581)

    but only to those with the secure software loaded on their own devices

    How useful is the phone then really, if you can not even call the dry cleaners down the street? Or maybe Obama only communicates with 5 or so people?

    • by vertinox (846076)

      I wonder who he's got for his Favs!

    • by fm6 (162816)

      I think this is less about having a phone in his pocket (it's not like he's not surrounded by people who can give him one) then it is about being able to send quick texts to his underlings. One hopes that he doesn't get too obnoxious that way!

  • Um, last year (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idiot900 (166952) * on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:29AM (#27700251)

    The BlackBerry network does have outages from time to time. But the linked article is from April 18, 2007!

  • Outage (Score:4, Funny)

    by AmigaAvenger (210519) on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:39AM (#27700327) Journal
    Outage last week? Wow, what happened to ever checking the dates, yes, April 17th, of 2007!!! REALLY old news... I've got a crackberry, had one for forever, now have a non-presidential edition 8830. I would never give it up, in fact, I probably would give up a firstborn for it.
  • Uh oh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Friday April 24, 2009 @08:41AM (#27700337) Homepage Journal
    When I hear that the President of my country, the commander in chief of its armed forces, is getting a "high security" blackberry which is being developed by our National Security Agency, all I can think of to say is 2 words..........

    Uh oh.
    • by rts008 (812749)

      What could possibly go wrong? ;-)

      Well, unlike in the recent past, at least this way there will be back ups of Presidential e-mails available from the NSA when Congress or the DOJ ask for them....

      • Just seeing it posted on Slashdot makes me nervous, because I now know there at least half a million hackers thinking of it as a fun new challenge. And some of them are accustomed to finding solutions to such obstacles in a matter of minutes.
        • by rts008 (812749)

          Well, if it's /. hackers, then maybe some good will come of him being 'Rick-Rolled' several times a day...what 'good', I don't know.

          Maybe CmdrTaco should get in the /.bunker soon....

  • "...if BlackBerry has more outage problems like its latest last week, which meant no mobile e-mail for hours across the US."

    Boy, anyone remember back in the day when Presidents used to get their information from Generals and top aides holding very flat pieces of compressed wood called paper?

    Point here is if ANYONE could get away with a Blackberry outage for "hours across the US", it SHOULD be that man.

  • What's the big deal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mraudigy (1193551) on Friday April 24, 2009 @09:00AM (#27700513)
    I mean, its really cool that the president will get back his Blackberry back and seems to embrace technology to some degree, but the DoD and the US Army have been issuing secure Blackberry's "encrypted to federal standards" for quite some time now.
    • by fm6 (162816)

      A small quibble: the NSA-certified PDAs that military people use are not Blackberries, they're Windows-based PDAs. Same basic functionality, though.

      Anyway, here's the big deal: those secure PDAs are used by many federal employees, but the President has never had one. The Secret Service doesn't like the idea of a device that might be used to track the guy they're protecting. More importantly, the President's lawyers don't like him to use any electronic media, even for non-governmental communication. They don

  • I'm not trolling, just asking an honest question because I'm genuinely curious.

    If Obama were to choose an iPhone, could it be made as secure as the solution implemented for his Blackberry?

    As far as I know, the iPhone doesn't yet match the Blackberry in security and enterprise users, even though some Fortune 500 companies have started using it.

  • by bugeaterr (836984) on Friday April 24, 2009 @09:12AM (#27700667)

    Every communication will be something like this:

    Advisor: Mr. President, there's a prob with X, WTF shuld we do?
    President Obama: LOL! Throw money at it.
    Advisor: Good call, Mr. President. Culd u b more specific?
    President Obama: *sighs* Create a new "Czar of X" over the new "Bureau of X", silly.
    Advisor: OMFG, BHO ROCKS!

    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Vice-President Biden : the game, you just lost it. rofl
    • by fm6 (162816)

      Great. Political argument via ignorant stereotype. I wish right wingers would grow up all ready and give us arguments based on their ideas instead of making fun of people who disagree with them. Who knows, you might actually convince people, instead of pissing them off. Try to remember why the U.S. elected a leftie President, even though most voters are pretty conservative.

      There's a serious question behind your stupid babble, so I might as well answer it: it's not about privacy, it's about security. If a ha

  • Some defense contractors already offer special encrypted Blackberry phones for their employees. How is this device so different? Just a different set of proprietary encryption software?
  • It was starting to look like the USA may have to send their army up to Waterloo to secure their strategic Blackberry reserves.
    • I wonder if any Republicans will make hay out of the fact that Blackberries are made by a Canadian company, and the President is unpatriotic for using one.

  • That's the one that says that the utility of a network is proportional to the square of the number of things (devices, people, services) connected to it.

    I suspect that President Obama (isn't it interesting how many people seem to be avoiding using that 2 word phrase in writing about him?) is about to discover that the useful thing about a BlackBerry isn't the *device*, it's the *people at the other end*.

    Whom he won't have.

  • "The device is said to be in the final stages of development at the National Security Agency, which will check that its encryption software meets federal standards. It might not be ready for months"

    Really, I would have thought it would be less secure [schneier.com] after the spooks got their hands on it. As such I have corrected the title.
  • I'm anxious to see when Apple will implement both data and transmission mandatory encryption on the iPhone for government and medical use. I attended an "iPhone and Government" meeting at one of Apples facilities in Reston, Va. the other day, with corporate representatives on hand to listen to the feedback of various agency IT/CIO folks and the concensus was Apple is working the DHS, OMB and other agencies to determine how Apple will pursue this. Being the iPhone was introduced only 20 some months ago, and
    • by saforrest (184929)

      It's just a matter of time, according to Apple, that Obama and the White House IT Dept. might consider trading in his Crackberry for the much more powerful and user friendly iPhone.

      It seems a bit unfair to decry the BlackBerry 8830 as being inferior in power to the iPhone, when it was being sold long before even the first-generation iPhone was available. Compare it to a Bold or a Storm.

  • by cptnapalm (120276) on Friday April 24, 2009 @11:32AM (#27702433)

    If it is relatively cheap, then ok, cool. The President wants a Blackberry and it won't be too expensive. No problem.

    But that isn't what it sounds like. Take months? How many man hours at what price per hour will be required so he can read his fan mail now instead of 30 minutes later? If the price is going to be exorbitant and this is little more than a vanity item, then no. Just no.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mysidia (191772)

      It's a high-security BB. He won't be allowed to make a call or text message on the device except to someone on the approved list.

      If you ask me, on the surface, it sounds more like a parental control feature than a legitimate security feature.

  • Unlike the rest of us, if the president can't make a call on his BB, there are a handful of high-security folks around that can make the call for him on some other device.

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:59PM (#27704513)

    TFA makes a big deal about the hackability and record-keeping issues surrounding e-mail. But that's really a non-issue, as RIM supports numerous corporate customers who have similar requirements. Its possible to configure a Blackberry to operate through a private enterprise e-mail system rather than the Canadian NOC. This answers many of the issues with record retention, encryption, and authentication (closely related to encryption).

    The one valid issue is the ability to track the device's location. Even without cracking message or voice encryption, any device using a cellular network can be located rather easily. I'm not certain whether the Sectera Edge uses a government (military?) network different than the commercial ones. If not, it will be as easy to follow as any cheap phone.

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