ISLAMABAD: After reviewing security aspects of BlackBerry’s secure Enterprise Services (BES), the Ministry of Interior on Friday decided to block the service in Pakistan, issuing directives to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to implement the decision from December 1, 2015.
The decision, however, will not affect BlackBerry’s Internet Services (BIS) in the country, which would allow the Canadian handset manufacturer’s customers in the country to continue using internet on their phones.
The move follows a similar attempt by the PTA almost four years ago in 2011 when it blocked BlackBerry services in Pakistan as part of its measures to block access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites which allegedly hosted blasphemous material. BES was also suspended in the country for what it claimed were security reasons.
PTA has also sent letters to cellular operators directing the mobile phone companies to ensure that there is no BES connection active after November 30, 2015.
“The decision to block the BES was taken on the directives of the interior ministry due to security reasons,” said Khurram Mehran, a spokesperson of PTA while talking to The Express Tribune.
He said that the regulator had given enough time to the consumers so that they could convert their communication mechanism to other services. “There was a challenge that the Blackberry email service could not be tracked or decoded, which leads to the security reasons,” he explained.
“There are few users of this service whose number would not be more than 4,000 to 5,000 in Pakistan”, said Mehran. He further said that while this service remains active in other countries, they were not facing security problems the likes of which Pakistan was facing.
BES is mostly used by the corporate sector to exchange private emails in an encrypted format preventing their scrutiny. For BES, the company operates the server and usually has it sitting somewhere within the corporate network. The IT department controls all aspects of the BES server, and its likely sitting in a secure location within data centre.
The move comes in the wake of a report by Privacy International which claims that security organisations in Pakistan sought to setup an electronic eavesdropping network along the lines of the National Security Agency. The country’s premier spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) recently told the Supreme Court that it was tapping over 6,000 phones as recent as May 2015.