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France Bans BlackBerries In Govt. On Fears of Spying 268

DesertBlade writes "French government officials are no longer allowed to use BlackBerries for official correspondence. The reason? Fear that the US government will snoop out French national secrets via RIM's network. From the article: '"The risks of interception are real. It is economic war," daily Le Monde quoted Alain Juillet, in charge of economic intelligence for the government, as saying. With BlackBerries, there is "a problem with the protection of information," he said. Juillet's office confirmed that he spoke to Le Monde but said he would not talk to other reporters. Officials at the presidential Elysee Palace and the prime minister's office were not immediately available for comment. Le Monde said information sent from BlackBerries goes through servers in the United States and Britain, and that France fears that the U.S. National Security Agency can snoop.'"
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France Bans BlackBerries In Govt. On Fears of Spying

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  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:47AM (#19608257)
    I'm sure there will be an avalanche of French jokes (looking forward to some good ones!), but as silly as it may seem, put that in the context of past and present behavior of our executive branch and their reach with the "Intelligence" Community. Entirely plausible, even likely.
  • It wasn't through Crackberry messages that the US caught Airbus bribing the Saudis, Belgians and others. Have people already forgotten about Echelon?
  • The country that is accused of spying on AirFrance aircraft? []
  • Industrial Espionage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BgJonson79 ( 129962 ) <srsmith@al u m> on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:49AM (#19608299)
    I thought France was regarded as being very, very good at industrial espionage. Shouldn't we be afraid of them?
  • by rbanzai ( 596355 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:49AM (#19608307)
    I don't think it's unreasonable for a foreign government to suspect that our government is not currently obeying any laws, morals, or ethics where snooping on electronic information is concerned.

    Even when laws are obeyed they differ from country to country, and one country might not appreciate the latitude (or lack of it) in the way another country handles information and espionage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by garcia ( 6573 )
      I don't think it's unreasonable for a foreign government to suspect that our government is not currently obeying any laws, morals, or ethics where snooping on electronic information is concerned.

      Currently? Why would they have ever trusted them? This time period is little different from the Cold War era. The only serious change is that it is now easier than ever for the Government to automatically spy and have less chance of getting caught.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gmajor ( 514414 )
      Do you think it's illegal, immoral, or unethical for the intelligence community to spy on other governments? If it is, then why isn't there any uproar on Russia spying on us, or China, or even France?

      I'm afraid that the USA makes an easy target for outrage and will always be an easy target.

      Spying is necessary. Every nation is looking out for its own self interests. Spying on government entitites is fair game. Spying on your own citizens is not. It is a very fine ethical line but as long as the focus is fore
      • by rbanzai ( 596355 )
        I'm sorry, I don't believe in an espionage system without limits, laws or oversight. I understand that for you the world is a very frightening place where any form of espionage can be explained away, but I don't see things that way.

        Yes, some spying is necessary. Part of the game that governments have always played with each other. But espionage at all levels, for any purpose is not alright with me. Those are limits we impose on ourselves internally, based on our own ideas, not those of other countries. It w
        • by gmajor ( 514414 )
          But I do believe in an espionage system with limits, laws, and oversight! Just because you spy on a foregin government does not mean you do not have any limits.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        So it is illegal for a warrant less search of your own citizens but it is perfectly legal for a warrant less search of others countries citizens. How about it is illegal to break into your own countries corporation computers and sell that information to their competitors but it is legal to break into other countries corporation's computers and sell that information to their competitors.

        Allies, ALLIES, we don't need no stinkin ALIIES.

        Why should anybody at any time accept behaviour by a company or a count

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by justinlee37 ( 993373 )

        It is a very fine ethical line but as long as the focus is foreign governments, they are on the right side of that ethical line.

        This is a great example of the philosophical and ethical quagmire that nationalism thrusts us into -- it causes us to see the world in terms of "us" and "them," where "we" have more rights than "they."

        It causes "us" to go to war with "them," instead of identifying with the human race as one collective entity.

        Which we are, and we ought to behave as such, considering that all we

  • 1. name a network that US Spy agencies can't spy on if they wanted to, regardless of national affiliation. why is RIM any different?

    2. would a Canadian like to clear their throat and defend a Canadian company accused of complicity with US Spying? seems like France is insulting Canada more than the US here

    i think the real culprit here is economic competition. it's not outright economic protectionism, but it's a shrewd effort at spreading FUD to protect the real goal: the nurturing of a Fench homegrown RIM alternative

    maybe the French are just pissed that the Internet didn't grow from Minitel []

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      >maybe the French are just pissed that the Internet didn't grow from Minitel
      Ooh, good homework, respect.

      Your point re FUD is certainly a good one though although I'm not aware of any French 'answer to Blackberry' systems about to hit the market.
    • circletimessquare!!!!

      shrewd effort at spreading FUD
      I'm sorry to inform you that countries spy on each other. Activities categorized under spying include lots of activities that most citizens would find distasteful to say the least.

      Instead of the spooks sitting on their ever-expanding rear-ends collecting data, it means they need to keep field agents working France and turning more French politicians and policy wonks.

      What you should consider carefully is the implications of this public statement. It tacitly
      • i am not getting at that you should trust the americans. i am saying that you should trust neither

        "What you should consider carefully is the implications of this public statement. It tacitly verifies the U.S. Government is collecting that data and getting full cooperation from probably way more than just America telcos."

        right. because the american government is evil and the french government is good

        what a retard

        here's a wacky concept: BOTH GOVERNMENTS LIE

        fascinating idea isn't it?

        a moron blindly trusts what
        • i am not getting at that you should trust the americans. i am saying that you should trust neither
          What are you suggesting isn't true here? That the U.S. employs spies? That the NSA/CIA/whatever can listen to the Blackberry network without much difficulty?
          If a notorious liar tells you "2+2=4," wouldn't you believe him?
    • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:11AM (#19608667) Homepage Journal
      One of the issues that seems to be apparent is that the BlackBerry servers are out of country, on someone else's soil. I am not sure the USA would react any differently if the servers were on French soil instead? One way to reassure the French government could be by placing the BlackBerry servers handling French traffic in France. As to whether the USA or France spy on each other? Well I just take the cynical point of view that if national security matters you need act as if anyone could be spying on you. I don't mind that governments wear tin foil hats, as long as their policy of doing so does not effect Joe public.
    • by Tuzanor ( 125152 )
      As a canadian, I'd like to point out that RIM's single largest customer is the US government in various forms (military, civilian, etc). The contract is probably worth a hundred million dollars. I'd be complacent for that much money. What RIM has to do is offer to have french government blackberries to go through servers in france.
  • Seems rational (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:50AM (#19608325) Homepage
    This seems like a perfectly rational precaution. For five every crazed conspiracy theory where random Joe Public runs around screaming that the NSA is decrypting his SSL'd eBay login information and/or listening for words like "bomb" and "president" on his phone calls to his mother, there's one very legitimate precaution like this.

    The real news story would be any government organization, US or foreign, that _WAS_ entrusting valuable national secrets to a third party vendor anywhere. The US isn't the only country with ELINT, and unless you have a network that doesn't require external trust (eg, the encryption is done server side or via a proprietary program that could be compromised) there's every reason NOT to make it easy for someone to profit at your expense.

    The minute God crapped out the third cave man, a conspiracy was hatched against one of them. You don't need to be a tin-foil wearing, taxi driving crazypants to know this.
    • 'crazed conspiracy theory where random Joe Public runs around screaming that the NSA is decrypting his SSL'd eBay login information'

      Not likely without a reason but not unlikely if they had some reason to care.

      'listening for words like "bomb" and "president" on his phone calls to his mother'

      You do realize this isn't a conspiracy theory right? This has been leaked, confirmed, and publicly defended by the dictat... err president.

      'The minute God crapped out the third cave man, a conspiracy was hatched against o
      • Despite the fact that government conspiracies are uncovered and brought into the public eye regularly, everyone who suspects that the government might be conspiring in any way that hasn't yet been uncovered is considered a crackpot (not to say that there are any shortage of actual crackpots).

        That's the real reason right there. Sure, there's plenty of conspiracy theories that are correct, but there are so many that are completely out there that people hear one and initially guess that it's in that nutty maj

    • by s4m7 ( 519684 )

      listening for words like "bomb" and "president"
      Suddenly there was a knock at the door,
      And Slashdot poster Chairboy was no more.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chairboy ( 88841 )
        Don't be cra)$(&*@#$
        NO CARRIER
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Random832 ( 694525 )
          NO CARRIER

          I think i've figured it out - there's clearly a correlation between people typing directly into the request body of a HTTP POST request via a dial-up modem and those who are taken away from the government.

          I use a browser and a real internet connection, so I'm not at risk.
    • The real news story would be any government organization, US or foreign, that _WAS_ entrusting valuable national secrets to a third party vendor anywhere.

      Happens all the time up here in Canada -- home of RIMM, btw.

      For example, the British Columbia government uses Accenture, IBM and Maximus -- all firms subject to US data recovery legislation.
  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:51AM (#19608333) Homepage
    Blackberries can't do S/MIME? Every other email client on the planet can do that. If RIM just built S/MIME support into their products, then it wouldn't matter at all who routed through what and where.
    • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:04AM (#19608559) Homepage Journal

      That's only true if you audit the entire Blackberry software stack for side-channel information leaks at the machine code level. I refer you to Ken Thompson's classic, Reflections on Trusting Trust. [] I've actually worked with a vendor that has tools for embedding special kinds of sentinels [] in object code, taking an even more direct and undetectable route than Ken did.

      They're right to be wary.

      • Did you read the article? They are concerned about routing their messages through the US, not about the devices themselves being boobytrapped.
        • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

          That's the surface concern, but really they should be concerned end-to-end, and probably are.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, that'll stop the NSA from dropping a box into their network and snooping that way.

      France has a very legitimate concern. In fact, I'd be amazed if, given the US's history, RIM wasn't already sending every email that goes through their system to the NSA.

      Yes, RIM might be headquartered in Canada, but if being in another country can't stop the US from abducting you and sending you to be tortured, why would that stop them from snooping on RIM's servers?
    • It's got **nothing** to do with the crackberry client.

      At this point in time, I don't doubt that the U.S. spooks measure their computing power in acres so if it's important they'll crack it.

      The article indirectly confirms spying at the backbone level via telco cooperation. A probable case can be made that RIM cooperates with the spooks anyway so secure client or not, the French are being practical and staying off a newish and very tempting looking grid.
  • You always fear most the evils that you yourself would commit.

    Thieves fear theft, liars fear that others are lying, backstabbers fear backstabbing... and the French fear economic espionage. Hmmmm. I wonder what the French might be up to?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And Americans fear terrorists... Hummmmm.
    • by Noryungi ( 70322 )

      You always fear most the evils that you yourself would commit.

      At least, the French are not afraid of being tortured by their enemies. I wonder what the CIA might be up to, with its black flights and secret prisons?
    • Riiiight (Score:4, Insightful)

      by phorm ( 591458 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:50AM (#19609241) Journal
      Sorry, but your innuendo falls a little short. It's been pretty visible that the US has mass spy programs against its own citizens (which has long been held less acceptable than against foreign "competition"), and they've done very little to hide the fact that they have a strong interest in collecting and using whatever information they can.

      Why do the french have to be up to anything? If I get new deadbolts because I see my neighbour burying bodies in the backyard, it doesn't mean I have any bodies in my yard, it just means I don't want to end fertilizing his...
  • by gmajor ( 514414 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:53AM (#19608383) Journal
    The French should know a thing or two about spying. They've been widely reported to engage in corporate spying against U.S. corporate interests. As an American, I say this is fair game (if the U.S. chooses this route). [] - an article about this from 1991.
    • it was well known for a long time that france was one of the few hold-outs in terms of letting its CITZENS use pgp encryption tech.

      odd that they seem to be doing a 180 and are now CONCERNED (?) with privacy?

      I know they now allow pgp encryption for the citizens, but for a long time, hardware vendors that shipped encryption had to 'worry' about how to deal with the french. very bizarre...
  • by ab762 ( 138582 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:56AM (#19608423) Homepage
    because they pursue it themselves: see this [] or Google "economic espionage" and France. And this 1992 item about Air France's [] involvement in bugging first class seats.

    I recall being told never to trust the shredders in French hotel rooms: they may have a scanner. Can't find that online, though.

    • After reading that, I'm not so sure I should trust my chapeau de feuille d'étain.
    • It's a pretty well known fact that all nations, friends and enemies, are spying on each other every day. France has a good reason to do this.
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:57AM (#19608449) Homepage Journal

    Personally, I don't understand how/why these devices can be used by anyone, really, who cares for the privacy/secrets. The connection to your mail-server is not secured at all.

    Even if device->RIM connection is secure (which is not certain, for they are using a proprietary protocol, AFAIK), you have to trust your privacy to RIM, a Canadian company foreign to most of its users.

    Sure, they have a good incentive to keep your privacy, but it would be better still to just use an end-to-end secure connection directly to your servers (via IMAPS, for example). Devices capable of that are becoming available, and the wireless networks grow as well... RIM exploded in prominence because it did not use Internet Protocol and was able to deliver relatively light and power-efficient devices to do the job.

    But technology is quickly eliminating that advantage — and the French may help create a better alternative, for a change.

    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you have a Blackberry enterprise server, the email goes through RIM in Canada but is encrypted all the way from the blackberry to the enterprise server. If there is an issue I would assume it is because France isn't properly encrypting their streams or is too cheap to buy the enterprise server.
  • You mean that our governments aren't already assuming that they do snoop?

    Yeah, but what am I thinking? We're talking about politicians and bureaucrats here.

  • They spend so much time meddling in the corporate world, trying to build national champions that I have no doubt that there is a lot of information of commercial interest floating around.

    Mind you, wouldn't surprise me if this is just an excuse to subsidise a French company and have them build a network.
  • No surprises here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by patrik ( 55312 ) <pbutler@ k i l l e> on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:58AM (#19608477) Homepage
    I am not surprised. The US Government does not particularly like them either. They are not considered secure devices by anyone's standard. I used to work at a large contractor and whenever some idiot manager had accidentally forwarded their classified emails to their to a blackberry there was always a lot of yelling and head rolling. The person had to basically give up their PDA for a week while the security guys sanitized the device. I believe the emails are actually stored on blackberry's emails servers so they even had to contact them to remove said emails.

    If I were worried about security I wouldn't think twice about banning them, no matter what country the mail servers were in. That being said, our govt and I am sure the French govt have skiffs for the really higher classification stuff.

    • by RingDev ( 879105 )
      Yup, just set one up last week for my VP. The emails are all stored on the provider's server and the system is set up to copy/redirect emails to/from your internal email to the provider's email service. So your email is only as secure as the 3rd party makes is.

      • by Ferzerp ( 83619 )

        That is not the correct way to set up a BlackBerry in a corporate environment, sorry.
        • by RingDev ( 879105 )
          It matters on your corporate environment. We initial set up the blackberry using the redirector app, which does indeed work that way. Since then we bumped up to the express small business server. Given our size and IT ability, the express business server is the best solution, but I can easily imagine other corporate environments where that is not so. Sure, if you've got a bunch of users and a couple grand laying around you could pick up an enterprise server for $3k + licenses, but for small companies with l
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:02AM (#19608533) Homepage
    Oh this makes me really happy to see this.

    At the moment, it would appear that the US Government has been pushing onto US businesses to allow for this and other types of surveillance and snooping. Now businesses will have a clear example of why it is not in their interests to comply so readily. When the international market will no longer trust you or your business model because the US Federal Government is potentially encroaching, corrupting or otherwise tainting their bsuiness image, then there will be lobbying for less government interference with business.

    I don't want to see lobbying affect government at all... don't get me wrong. That's where corruption largely begins and lives. But as long as this system is in place, at least now we can see where even those forces can be used against the current trends in government eroding our rights and privacy.
    • Oh please. Nobody would even TALK to a Chinese company by your line of reasoning. Get a grip, nobody cares.
  • in other news Steve Jobs just announced the latest French Flag theme for the iPhone.
  • by boguslinks ( 1117203 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:06AM (#19608591)
    Why would the US want to do this? To engage in "economic war" the opponent needs a vibrant economy. Would the US spy on them to try to determine if they're going to loosen up the 35 hour work week?
    • Boeing.


      Both are MASSIVE exporters, netting their home countries billions - largely because they're the biggest (and, for some products, the only) players in their industry.

      Both are at each others throats. Both are trying to best each other. Both are targets of the intelligence service of the opposing country's intelligence community.

      The French economy isn't exactly soaring lately, to be sure, but in this particular industry we want to keep a close eye on our competitors. Espionage, like internatio
  • Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by daemonc ( 145175 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:13AM (#19608699)
    I thought RIM was Canadian? []

    Although I don't doubt that the US government would would snoop on their network too if they could.
  • Ironic (Score:3, Funny)

    by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:14AM (#19608713) Journal

    Officials at the presidential Elysee Palace and the prime minister's office were not immediately available for comment.
    If they'd of just had their blackberries... oh wait...
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:18AM (#19608759)
    There's really only one way.

    Build it yourself. Hardware and software. It kind of explains Bull [].

  • by DesertBlade ( 741219 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:19AM (#19608789)
    They just want to get an iPhone and need a reason to expense it.
  • Everyone knows that the US government has been spying [] on other countries for years, including a couple of high-profile industrial espionage cases. If I pulled the strings in France, I would make proper encryption mandatory and not let a single byte escape from government computers/handhelds to the internet.

    *reinforces his tinfoil hat with lead*
  • Please post links to recent articles/papers/talks etc. about BlackBerry security (but not the RIM marketing stuff). I thought of whitepapers, recent security conferences, articles etc. covering the topic.

    I am in need of evaluating the security of BlackBerries for my company.

    For example, I can remember that on one security conference a few years back I was told that anyone back then could easily push a kernel module on the phone without any user interaction. But I can not find any references that back up thi
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:51AM (#19609255)
    Greetings Fracnophiles,

    RIM's push-email servers are in CANADA. Your precious "Stop for a hunk of cheese, bottle of wine, and loaf of stale bread on the way home from work (at 3pm)" text messages to one another go through a server in ONTARIO. Look it up on a map. I believe on the French version of the map (as required by French law, no less) it's called ONTARIO.

  • Linux :) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @11:57AM (#19609359)
    I can see the slogan now... Linux: because you don't have to take our word for it! :)
    Seriously, imagine if Windows Update pushed a reconnaissance-program to computers based on IP address before beginning other types of warfare. And conveniently I would imagine it would be difficult to detect the early stages of such an attack as Windows itself would no doubt have configured all the necessary permissions (firewall,...) while not reporting payload-activity. Eventually someone would notice that physical and audited network traffic don't match and then the jig-would-be-up. That's when you begin your land assault!
  • by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Friday June 22, 2007 @12:01PM (#19609403) Homepage Journal
    The French were the first to be widely known to commit economic espionage against U.S. firms, I remember. Then IIRC the U.S. decided to get back at them.

    In this case the French threw away a nice intel weapon in that they could have coordinated disinformation via their blackberries in an attempt to either disseminate fake information to the U.S. intentionally, or to detect the routes taken by info gleaned from the RIM network much as people make extra email addresses to track spammers.

    The problem is, the politicians are only human, and these gadgets are just too darned cute to keep your fingers off 'em.

    I wonder why RIM wouldn't be willing to offer the French government their own locally hosted servers.
  • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @12:16PM (#19609621) Homepage
    A friend in university went to France for the summer to work for a French manufacturer. Once there, he was informed that his job was to gain employment at a competitor and steal marketing and product development material. Being a future lawyer, he ignored the ethically problematic aspects of the work, but with due mind for the legal consequences of getting caught, took the job(s), performed admirably, and collected two paycheques all summer.

    So when the French are worried about economic espionage, we probably all should be.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @12:26PM (#19609789) Homepage Journal
    DGSE, the French intelligence services, as part of their official charter engage in industrial and corporate espionage against internal and external targets whether or not those companies are operating in France.

    The More You Know.

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