By BRAD STONE
The New York Times
January 11, 2009
Why can't the most powerful person in the world keep his BlackBerry?
President-elect Barack Obama, who will take the oath of office next
week, has repeatedly acknowledged a strong attachment to his Verizon
BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone, a k a the BarackBerry. But in
an interview last week, Mr. Obama lamented that the Secret Service and
his lawyers appeared to be winning the battle to deny him this
electronic link to friends, family and news of the larger world.
"I'm still clinging to my BlackBerry," he said. "I don't know that I'll
No doubt millions of e-mail-addicted thumb jockeys can sympathize. But
there are several compelling reasons to separate Mr. Obama from his
The first is security. Research in Motion, the Canadian company that
makes the BlackBerry, boasts that its devices and network were designed
from the bottom up to protect the data that passes through them.
When companies (or the White House) install R.I.M. servers on their
internal e-mail networks, their employees. BlackBerry messages are
heavily encrypted before they are sent to one of R.I.M.'s network
operations centers and passed on to other devices or networks.
This means that if someone were to intercept a message, it would be
virtually impossible to unscramble the contents, R.I.M. says.
The F.B.I. feels comfortable enough with the technology to give
BlackBerrys to its employees, although it does not allow agents to
transmit classified information over them. The National Security Agency,
which is responsible for evaluating device security, said last week that
nobody was available to discuss whether it had approved the use of
BlackBerrys to send classified military information.
But Mr. Obama would be an extraordinarily juicy target for hackers,
spies and other snoops who could try to exploit any kind of error made
in configuring the device or the White House BlackBerry server to read
Mr. Obama's e-mail.
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