British intelligence agency called in to break BlackBerry encryption

Richard Clayton richard at
Wed Aug 31 18:25:47 BST 2011

In article <4E5B6782.6020009 at>, Peter Fairbrother
<zenadsl6186 at> writes

>"British intelligence service, MI5 has been drafted in to assist its 
>sister service, GCHQ in cracking the BlackBerry encryption code"
>Now GCHQ are the code boys and MI5 are supercops, and maybe Zdnet just 
>got it the wrong way round.

the article also said

    "in order to find those responsible for disseminating messages which
    perpetuated riots in London earlier this month."

But those messages were not encrypted but merely scrambled (the
Blackberry devices use Triple-DES... but all the handsets share the key,
so this is really not very much of a challenge)

Blackberry messages that go via a corporate server are encrypted
differently (the key is held by the corporate -- to the chagrin of India
and various Gulf states), but that wasn't the service that the kids on
the street were using.

>Looking at a Blackberry message from Yob Adam in Peckham to Rasta Bob in 
>Brixton, the message is first encrypted and transmitted from Adam's 
>Blackberry to RIM's servers in Paris,

I understand that the messages actually go via servers run by the telcos
(and that these are not in Paris)

richard                                              Richard Clayton

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.         Benjamin Franklin
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