The Null Device

The UAE BlackBerry bug

A phone carrier in the United Arab Emirates recently pushed out a patch for BlackBerry handsets, which it advertised as a "performance enhancement", but which, on closer examination, turned out to contain a remotely activatable surveillance programme:
The spying program in the patch is switched off by default on installation, but switching it on would be a simple matter of pushing out a command from the server to any device, causing the device to then send a copy of the user’s subsequent e-mail and text messages to the server.
I wonder what the story here is; is the UAE's government too cheap to shell out for some of that sweet Nokia Siemens surveillance gear the Iranian government has been reportedly very pleased with? Was the patch planted by other agencies (The Mossad? The Iranian secret service? Organised crime?) Or is Dubai trying to build the world's most elaborate context-based advertising system?

There are 3 comments on "The UAE BlackBerry bug":

Posted by: ctime Thu Jul 16 18:30:02 2009

The folks at etisalt are great. My job has required that I be involved in trying to unblock certain website resources for our customers in country. For starters, the letter drafted had to be address to 'His royal majesty', and on paper. I just received word a few days ago that they now have a new electronic site that can be used to request sites be unblocked. How progressive indeed. The sites that were blocked were all academic in nature.. wonderful eh.

Posted by: ctime Thu Jul 16 18:39:48 2009

I just submitted the url for the wired article to be unblocked... heheh

Justification: The features for the Blackberry that are described in this article sound totalitarian fantastic, where do I sign up?

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 16 19:34:12 2009

I was once thinking that Dubai would be an interesting place for a holiday. You know, in a neo-Ballardian preapocalyptic terriblisma sort of sense.

Then I flew back from Australia to the UK via Dubai, with a 6-hour stopover, and used the time to check my mail and such. After discovering that Flickr is blocked in Dubai, I quickly crossed it off my list of holiday destinations.