Researcher: Middle East Blackberry Update Spies on Users

Researcher: Middle East Blackberry Update Spies on Users
Researcher: Middle East Blackberry Update Spies on Users

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By Kim Zetter
Threat Level
July 14, 2009

A Blackberry update that a United Arab Emirates service provider pushed 
out to its customers contains U.S.-made spyware that would allow the 
company or others to siphon and read their e-mail and text messages, 
according to a researcher who examined it.

The update was billed as a =E2=80=9Cperformance enhancement patch=E2=80=9D by the 
UAE-based phone and internet service provider Etisalat, which issued the 
patch for its 100,000 subscribers.

The patch only drew attention after numerous users complained that it 
drained their Blackberry battery and slowed performance, according to 
local publication ITP.

Nigel Gourlay, a Qatar-based programmer who examined the patch, told ITP 
that the patch contained =E2=80=9Cphone-home=E2=80=9D code that instructed the 
Blackberries to contact a server to register. But once the patch was 
installed, thousands of devices tried to contact the server 
simultaneously, crashing it and causing their batteries to drain.


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