Saudi Arabia to block BlackBerry services starting tomorrow

By Adam Zeis on 4 Aug 2010 12:41 pm EDT
BlackBerry Use

Saudi Arabia will stop BlackBerry service starting tomorrow according to the Saudi Press Agency. While all the buzz was about the UAE's attempts to block BlackBerry service, Saudi Arabia will be getting things done quicker. Both governments fear for their security, and since BlackBerry data is accessed on remote servers, they feel it is a threat. This will go for all businesses and individuals "because the manufacturer of the devices couldn't meet the regulatory requirements of the commission and it is not in accordance with the regulations and conditions of licenses issued to service providers, at its present state". RIM did not provide any comment or details on the ban, and it is unclear what will come of it. They did however note that the RIM servers and data are still 100% secure and neither they nor anyone else can access the data as there is no "master key" or "back door" that would allow someone to do so.

Source: CNN

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Saudi Arabia to block BlackBerry services starting tomorrow


I seriously hate it. First I thought RIM marketing skills to show their security but now it seems its serious

Lived in Saudi Arabia...first country I ever been to from which I left with a less-favorable opinion than when I arrived, and this was pre-Desert Storm mid 1980s.

earlier in the morning today i received an internal communication to all staff that blackberry services would be discontinued as of friday, august 6th. naturally i posted that as my facebook status to tell all my friends just how ridiculous this was. moving forward, wayyyy later in the afternoon i received yet another email stating that after officials from where i work spoke to the major telecom provider here (saudi telecom aka stc), it was confirmed that blackberry services would NOT be banned like they said they would. of course, if any developments or updates are provided from now until then i'll be sure to post them here.

just so you guys know this isn't the first time they've threatened to ban or stop blackberry services here in saudi. this is HOWEVER the first time it's made it into the news (CB, CNN, BBC, etc). it's always just been rumors. i think this time gov't authorities got a little excited because of the emirates mouthing off and causing a fuss, which they LOVE to do by the way.

hope this info helps anyone out there wondering what the deal is.

I guess I have to cancel my Saudi trip...not. So is this a plus for blackberry? the fact that it is so secure that governments have a problem accessing information. Or is it a negative reflection on RIM ? What do you guys think...

There's no doubt it's a positive reflection on RIM. People are so nervous now a days about getting their identity stolen, and keeping their information safe, that they're willing to do just about anything to do so. With governments actually BANNING use of a particular device due to the fact that they can't intercept and read the messages being sent from the device should give users quite a sense of security that what they're doing on their BB is going to remain secure. It should also make businesses feel that their transmissions are also being protected, which is certainly important for sensitive documents.

I think it's a huge positive, and it shows the security weaknesses of the other platforms that are out there. I would think people concerned with their personal information security would see this as a huge positive. Like I said, people are willing to pay top dollar for security.

Hopefully those who are willing to pay that top dollar are using BES. The only way to get the full end-to-end encryption and security offered by the "BlackBerry Platform" as I understand it is to go full BES with no BIS. Read the security documents on RIM's web site. If you're using BIS your data is no more secure than it is on any other competing platform. BIS email is not encrypted between device and servers, PIN messages are not encrypted, etc.

Sounds like a wonderful place to stay away from.
Of course most of that region falls in that category, so why should SA be different?

I think i found where things went wrong here. It's not Saudi's the KINGDOM of Saudi Arabia. lol

If they want to live in a Kingdom, where democracy means nothing and blood-line means everything, they can continue to live in the past and have message passed by traveling caravans.

What really concerns me is that I heard all God's have a blackberry. Does that mean god won't be receiving the prayers of his followers?


The UAE's announcement that it would block key BlackBerry services prompted the U.S. State Department to express disappointment, saying that it establishes a dangerous precedent. In response, the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, called the State Department's comments "disappointing" and said that they "contradict the U.S. government's own approach to telecommunications regulation."

The ambassador said that the UAE is asking for similar regulatory compliance that RIM grants the U.S. and other governments.

"Importantly, the UAE requires the same compliance as the U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement," he said. "It is regrettable that after several years of discussions, BlackBerry is still not compliant with UAE regulatory requirements even as it complies with similar policies in other countries."

I see where you are coming from, however if you READ the UAE wants similar regulatory compliance, not the same as US and Can are granted from RIM. Obviously the UAE wants stricter compliance and RIM is reluctant to grant such drastic security power to all SEVEN emirate states when canada and US' compliance requirements are far less. You forgot to mention they want to restrict porn and BBM as well...The Arab states just want more control over their people and visitors than necessary and for RIM to do this will hurt their brand. Think about all the celebrities and high profile people who travel to say DUbai etc. Them not being able to use their blackberry will cause a shift towards say ANDROID and Apple, and RIM is not willing to give up such high profile clientele over ridiculous restrictions.

What about the privacy rights of the customers . We have the right to some privacy . Rim does that best and that's why I stay with them . Are these governments going to give back all the money people have spent on these phones and buy them new phones for all the trouble they are causing . Maybe Google has paid them off so they can sell of they insecure hackable
toy phones

Rim don't back down . We need our damn PRIVACY ...

We are spoiled with our rights and privacy laws and we can b!tch and complain all we want but who are we to say what and how Telecommunications is regulated in other countries. From their side, I can understand how it might be frustrating not to be able to control what's going on. It's the cost of doing business so I hope RIM and the others work it out but it doesn't seem likely in the short term.

I wouldn't be surprised that there is control already existing here. You and I don't know for sure but in these times, there is no doubt.

Dear Saudi Govt.,

You are such retards, you recently started talking about information systems, first non-dialup internet was introduced in 2000(?) Now you are talking about IT security and banning BlackBerry services? Reason: you can't monitor the data flow? Why the heck do u care? When other countries don't have an issue, when US/Canada don't have issue why do u? India is same like you. They don't have their own govt websites/networks secured they tried to decrypt bb data (=))).

There are a lot of other things to ban in ur country. Belly dancing, TV channels, satellite channels (***), etc. You provide limited access to internet like 60% of websites are blocked, ban the companies who uses VPN networks, ban the products, etc.

To the opressive Arab nations:

How about banning:

suicide bombers
radical islam
terror funding
mistreatment of woman
religious persecution
tollerance of the above
the firing of Ak47s in the air as celebratory ritual (what goes up must come down)
covering up for fellow arabs even when they are obviously part of the access of evil
Rogue religious radical states seeking nuclear weapons
Terror training camps
travel to countries for the purpose of jihad
oil price gouging

the above list should keep you busy for a while and take your mind off the blackberry issue.

Priorities need realignment

"They did however note that the RIM servers and data are still 100% secure and neither they nor anyone else can access the data as there is no "master key" or "back door" that would allow someone to do so."

Not sure I total trust that to be true either...

This might become a problem for RIM if other Countries start wondering about what information might be going thru all of RIM's servers.

..But this is the same country where woman are not allow to drive cars. So that tell us a lot about what the Saudi Government intentions are.

Go RIM! Do not capitulate to these backward dictators.
Amazing that they want 21st century weapons and technology but remain mired with 7th century mindsets and sensibilities.
Maybe carrier pigeons will suit their needs. Wait even that is too 18th century for them!

U.S. law enforcement officials said they can tap into emails and other conversations made using the device, made by Research in Motion, as long as they have proper court orders.

RIM's willingness to grant authorities access to the messages of its clients is a hot-button issue. The United Arab Emirates claims it does not have the same kind of surveillance rights to BlackBerry messages as officials in the United States. It has threatened to clamp down on some services unless they get more access.

The exact details of the dispute remain unclear, but security experts say that many governments around the world enjoy the ability to monitor BlackBerry conversations as they do communications involving most types of mobile devices.

"The ability to tap communications is a part of surveillance and intelligence and law enforcement all over the world," said Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the U.S. Department of Justice.

RIM is in an unusual position of having to deal with government requests to monitor its clients because it is the only smartphone maker who manages the traffic of messages sent using its equipment. Other smartphone makers -- including Apple Inc, Nokia, HTC and Motorola Corp -- leave the work of managing data to the wireless carrier or the customer.

RIM's encrypted, or scrambled, traffic is delivered through secure servers at its own data centers, based mostly in its home base of Canada. Some corporate clients choose to host BlackBerry servers at other locations.

Rasch said that RIM may feel uncomfortable granting such access to officials in UAE. There may be concern authorities could abuse that access, he said.

"You reach a point where a company feels uncomfortable from the client perspective with what a government is asking them," Rasch said. "It may be a function of what they are being asked to do, or it may be a function of which government is asking."

U.S. rules that govern wire-tapping are designed to avoid abuse of power.

"It's a very complex process going to go about getting a wire tap. It's not something that is made easy for us to do," said Connecticut State Police Sergeant Shawn Corey.

It's sad to see that a lot of the comments left here are quite offensive. I'm from Egypt and have went to the KSA on many occasions. It's true that blocking the Blackberry service is not really what I would call a smart move since the service has proven to be very useful for a lot of people from different occupational backgrounds, but expressing that thought using rude and offensive language isn't the best way around it as well.