Pakistan Orders Three ISPs To Stop BlackBerry Enterprise Server Encrypted Communications

BES 12 dashboard

Pakistan's government recently issued an order to the country's three main ISPs, Mobilisk, Ufone and Telenor Pakistan, to ban all encrypted BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) communications.

The government had previously asked ISPs to alert it when Pakistani citizens use virtual private networks (VPNs) and has also blocked access to popular social networks such as Facebook because of "blasphemous" material found on them.

The Pakistani government said in the order that due to "serious concerns by the Security Agency," the three ISPs are to send a 90 days notice to all BES customers to close their BES connections, and to ensure that all of those connections are closed by November 30, 2015, "without fail."

Because enterprise BlackBerry customers use their own BES servers and their own keys to encrypt the exchanging of messages, that means the Pakistani government can't simply ask BlackBerry to give them the keys. However, it could be a way for the government to force BlackBerry to provide it with some kind of backdoor access to its enterprise customers' servers.

The Indian, Saudi and UAE governments have also banned or threatened to ban BlackBerry in the past, only for BlackBerry to later come up with a "solution" to satisfy or at least compromise with those governments.

For instance, in India, BlackBerry didn't give the government full access to its enterprise customers' communications, but it did give access to regular BBM communications, for which BlackBerry has the cryptographic key. Unlike, for example, TextSecure/Signal, BBM doesn't use end-to-end encryption, so the company can provide that kind of access to governments, when asked.

However, in this case, the Pakistani government may simply not accept any kind of compromise, especially if BlackBerry has already given it access to BBM messages. That would leave BlackBerry only two choices: either provide a backdoor to the government and risk further tarnishing its security reputation in the enterprise market, or accept that it can't sell BES licenses anymore in Pakistan.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • targetdrone
    Another example why it is a bad idea to do business with oppressive 3rd world nations and why violating the prime directive (interfering with primitive cultures) is a bad idea. Pakistan could nuke Blackberry if they wanted to.
  • George Phillips
    Pakistan government is such a joke. The "management" of the government must be thinking that they own the entire country; governments like this should be wiped out of the Earth.
  • Achoo22
    Meanwhile, when Snowden tried to tell us just how bad things have gotten in the US, the comment section is full of vitriol naming him a treasonous traitor. Even still, no media outlet has done a proper reporting of his leaks.
  • voodoochicken
    It's not like Blackberry is drowning in customers these days