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Germany Flirts With BlackBerry Ban

Germany Flirts With BlackBerry Ban

Hasselhoff with BlackBerry

Government contracts are a big part of BlackBerry’s business in the U.S. If President Obama’s constant use of the device is not evidence enough, senator John McCain was once attributed as the phone’s inventor. But that’s not the case in Germany, at least for much longer. There, the government announced today that due to a “dramatic” increase in cyber attacks, its ministers and senior civil servants were ordered not to use BlackBerry and iPhone devices.

The announcement comes following an “urgent” recommendation by federal IT security agency BSI, which suggested the German government switch to Simko devices offered by Deutsche Telekom. Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere explained that “a rise in attacks against our networks and in particular against government networks” has led officials to reconsider whether the smartphones’ security was aligned with its own. “BlackBerry’s infrastructure is a company-owned closed system,” he said. “But the access standard must be capable of being set by the government and not by a private company.”

Additionally, BSI found a major security flaw in Apple’s iOS operating system, which could be exploited through PDFs.

Recently, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia have threatened to ban the phone’s use also, with officials from those countries indicating displeasure with their inability to access to BlackBerry’s encrypted network to monitor potential security threats. Research In Motion, the Canadian firm that develops the BlackBerry, fought back last week, arguing that it wouldn’t give any one government special treatment, and it looks like Germany serves as yet another example of this policy. Still, Saudi Arabia today began testing a fix to this problem to avoid a proposed ban on the smartphone.

It’s unclear what improvements in cyber security Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom will be able to provide. However, one benefit is readily apparent: The German government owns a 15% share in the company and another 17% through government-owned bank KfW.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.