BlackBerry’s secure messaging service will be blocked in Pakistan starting from 1 December. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has said the measure was taken due to “security reasons” but did not disclose what that meant.
BlackBerry devices are popular among world leaders and business users due to the strong encryption used to prevent third parties from intercepting messages. However, this has also fallen on the wrong side of regimes that would prefer to be able to monitor civilian communications for various reasons.
Privacy International has released a report indicating that Pakistan is looking to dramatically expand its ability to intercept communications. This included a project that would capture and record all IP traffic entering and leaving the country. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are looking to tap the data right at the source, allowing them unfettered access to all internet traffic passing through Pakistan.
This move against BlackBerry seems to indicate that the Canadian company’s encryption is proving to be secure enough that the ISI is unable to examine the contents of messages. However, it is also suspected that the blocking of BlackBerry messenging services could be a move to prevent terrorists and militants from using it to avoid detection.
Pakistan has been struggling with militant forces, criminal gangs, and drug traffickers; and the ability to monitor these groups is important in bringing order to the country.
Of course, the blanket ban on BlackBerry messenger would also hurt legitimate users who prefer to use the platform. BlackBerry has not commented on the matter, nor has the Pakistani government offered any more details on the announcement.