BlackBerry servers ripe for the hacking

BlackBerry servers ripe for the hacking
BlackBerry servers ripe for the hacking

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By John E. Dunn
10 March 2008

Many companies running BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) could be 
inadvertently opening a door to attackers, a penetration testing company 
has found.

Penetration testing consultancy NTA Monitor found that most of its 
customers running the BlackBerry Server with Microsoft Exchange were 
taking the path of least resistance by opening unencrypted ports from 
the heart of their network to service providers. The providers, in turn, 
opened a return back to the BES that would pass through firewalls 
without any policies being applied.

This left the network open on several levels, including session 
hijacking, IP spoofing, or just the interception of unencrypted traffic.

"A hacker could potentially use this back channel to move around inside 
an organisation undetected, removing confidential information or 
installing malware on to the network," said Roy Hills, NTA=E2=80=99s technical 

According to NTA Monitor=E2=80=99s technical manager, Adrian Goodhead, the open 
configuration was no accident of poor implementation, accounting for a 
sizeable 10-15 of the company=E2=80=99s enterprise-level customers using 
BlackBerry handhelds (roughly 70-80 percent of the total base they 
surveyed). The commonest cause was simply cost.

The company recommends implementing a BES in a demilitarised zone (DMZ), 
which would isolate attacks against the sever from the wider network. 
However, this added complexity, and added complexity added expense.

"You have to add various software and hardware. People are trying to 
keep costs down," said Goodhead.

He characterised the flaw as low-to-medium in severity because "it 
requires a fair amount of knowledge" to exploit, but nevertheless one 
that needed to be addressed.

Goodhead criticised the service providers for not explaining that a more 
expensive implementation was usually necessary for security reasons. 
BlackBerry, for its part, gave details of how to implement its 
technology securely, he said, and so couldn=E2=80=99t be blamed.

NTA Monitor, which recently found holes in VPNs, offers several general 
security recommendations for clients using BES. These include using SSL 
encryption, enabling content protection on the handheld, disallowing 
non-approved applications =E2=80=93 including P2P messaging =E2=80=93 and turning off 
Bluetooth on the handheld.

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