French BlackBerry Restriction More About Commerce Than Security

French BlackBerry Restriction More About Commerce Than Security

Earlier this year, the French General Secretariat for National Defense (SGDN) reaffirmed a warning to French policymakers that the ubiquitous BlackBerry represents a potential intelligence vulnerability when used to transmit sensitive information. The BlackBerry is a handheld computer developed by the Canadian firm Research in Motion (RIM) that allows users to forward electronic messages sent via the Internet (email) to the device.

According to French sources, the main SGDN concern is that the security framework used by the BlackBerry to transmit email is vulnerable to interception by British and American intelligence. As a result, the French government restricted its use by French Ministries, in the office of the president or prime minister's office, or by high-ranking civil servants.

Although the BlackBerry has become an essential tool for communications in business and government in recent years, concerns over the vulnerability of BlackBerries are not new. RIM has often been forced to address the issue of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks in the past, though this has always been viewed more as a threat to productivity than to security. DoS attacks involve the bombardment of a server with requests for service, clogging bandwidth and potentially crippling network connectivity. Estonian government networks suffered such an attack earlier this year. The objective of a DoS attack is not to threaten the integrity of information passing through a server, but rather to eliminate the server's ability to process information.

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