back to article 700,000 Saudi BlackBerrys go silent noisy

Saudi Arabia has carried out its threat to cut off BlackBerry users in the country, with 700,000 addicts reduced to talking on the phone and perhaps even doing some work. The Bangkok Post reports that the email service stopped working around midday after the government had made it abundantly clear that networks which failed to …


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  1. billymac

    Er...working on a Friday in a strict Muslim country?

    "Saudi Arabia has carried out its threat to cut off BlackBerry users in the country, with 700,000 addicts reduced to talking on the phone and perhaps even doing some work.".....Don't think you'll find many people working in Saudi today

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      well... yes, actually

      most of the ex-pats in the oilfields and refineries are working. At least that's how it was done when my cousin was over there in the 90's

    2. Anonymous Coward

      About Friday

      They do still work on Friday. They do however, keep away from work during the Friday prayer times in the afternoon. It's not like in Christian places like in the UK of old where you had "Keep Sunday Special".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    not unexpected

    in a totalitarian terror-sponsoring state.

  3. serviceWithASmile

    I don't know how things work in saudi arabi

    but isn't this grounds for a class-action lawsuit?

    700,000 people who paid money for a service that has been banned by a country for reasons unknown smells a little fishy...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Class Action Lawsuits

      Are a perversion that only occurs in the US legal system. The rest of the world was smart enough to not sell their souls to their respective trial lawyer associations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not just US

        Amongst others Italy and Portugal also have it, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to introduce it in France a couple of years ago.

    2. Cameron Colley

      Class what?

      If you live in Saudi you do what your owners tell you or you die.

      It is a totalitarian islamic state -- if you live there you are a slave.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Just because it's different...

        ...doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it.

        Certainly your description does not seem to fit at all my experience as a five-year resident in KSA. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and so did the many others who bothered to show any respect to the local population (and receive similar respect, and kindness, from them). Have you ever actually been there, or anywhere at all for that matter?

        Incidentally them poor bastards seem to be a favourite target for the pseudo-liberal brigade, for example, when I read about Amnesty International's website being blocked in the Kingdom. Curiously AI never saw fit to explain to me how they could be blocked when I read that on their own website, from Saudi, going through a Saudi ISP. To my knowledge they never rectified that false statement either.

    3. Lance 3

      Not there

      Good luck with a lawsuit like that there.

    4. Manu T

      how many saudi's where banned? Or was it foreigners whom work there that were the target?

      Do anyone knows how many of these 700000 BB's are owned by foreigners working over there or owned by saudis?

  4. JaitcH

    Could it be because it's Friday?

    All faithful muslin BlackBerry users should be on their mats in the mosque on Fridays from 12:30 to 14:00H for noon prayers so they would only discover their losses afterwards.

    RIM users can revert to Apps for e-mail although the security will be missing.

  5. flingback

    Baffled by this a little...

    There's something a little odd going on with this which I really don't get.

    The significant difference between BlackBerry's and all other GPRS connected devices is that BlackBerry have their own dedicated APN's on the mobile networks which allows them to reach all devices via an IP address. Conventional APN's cannot offer a managed IP address, so the device relies on setting up an outbound tunnel that all the data is then reversed down.

    So, once you've got your connection established, you need to establish security, exchange your credentials, and away you go. RIM uses all manner of fairly well established options here (3DES, RSA, etc.) and this is the "unbreakable" bit that's being complained of as it's from the device to the server (on a corporate device this lives at the company's IT HQ and generally connects to their Exchange Server). However, if I use my Apple or Android device and make an OMA/HTTPS connection to the same Exchange Server (ours is set up to do both BB and OMA/HTTPS), establish credentials and can then receive push email via a reverse push.

    The bit I am confused about is that if my memory serves me correctly, properly certificated HTTPS is meant to be ultra-secure which is why it's used for credit card and banking transactions. This puts it in a similar league to RIM's security, so why hasn't HTTPS been disabled, or has it? If not, then all the bad people can simply change to iPhones and go about their business with impunity.

    Then... there's always Skype!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Negotiation time is up

    " but what's harder to understand is the urgency with which the government applied the ban"

    How long have they been negotiating with RIM? Patience seems to have run out.

    There will be a cascade. UAE next and then the biggie - India.

    All emails, encrypted they may be, go via Canada and are read by the NSA and shared with trusted partners.

    What if Samsung insisted on all emails going via its servers in Korea with emails encrypted - OK, the US might leverage access, but if not neither they nor the UK would be happy.

    1. JaitcH

      It's nearly that time again ...

      the Hajj.

      Borders are almost wide open, to muslims, and the vulnerability is highest.

    2. Steven Knox


      "All emails, encrypted they may be, go via Canada and are read by the NSA and shared with trusted partners." [Citation Needed]

  7. Mark Jan

    Hot Off The Press

    "New laws in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will require that every Blackberry user dress their phone a miniature burqa and face veil. ‘The Blackberry burqa means that people can still use their phones,’ said a Saudi government official, ‘but the tiny niqab that covers the screen will stop them from reading emails or accessing the Internet.’ The introduction of the burqa is intended to conceal the Blackberry from unwanted attention. "

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I was in a taxi the other day, right?

      And the Burkha fell off this bloke's Blackberry! You should have seen the kinky backdrop he had on under it!


  8. Arkasha
    Dead Vulture

    Too slow....

    Service is back on again apparently.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    "United Arab Emirates (UEA)"

    Um.. don't think you got that right.

  10. Jemma
    Grenade know, it strikes me...

    That this is very easy to explain...

    BB's use servers run by a US company - which is a no-no in the emirates (we might trade with you offendi, but we dont have to like it!)... Saudis companies & companies from other countries out that way arent keen on respecting british law when they are trading in the UK - so I doubt they are too amused on it being shoved in their faces on their own soil

    But more than this the US Government use them - and I wouldnt be surprised if americans 'nose poker'inners' to quote Gen. Melchett use them as well. Now given that its pretty much known that Iraq and Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 - and 90% of the 9/11 lot were Saudi nationals, whats the betting that the saudi's think that some interesting data might be on its way soon to the USA.?.. information which wouldnt paint them in the best of lights maybe...?

    Its interesting that the countries that have either banned or are threatening to ban the BB service are ones that historically havent gotten on well with American Foreign Policy (such as it can be called a policy) and will probably therefore have a few people in deep cover sending interesting little tidbits back home under a nicely encrypted BB link...

    The odd thing is that RIM have seemingly bent over and taken it in the proverbial backside - without even offering up more than a token powerpoint whining session. Thats the only part that doesnt really make sense from both a espionage and keeping customers point of view (first the UAE, Saudi rendering expensive kit effectively useless, where is it gonna happen next...?)

    I am betting that there is going to be a VW vs. Tatra situation going on here. RIM could sue the Saud & UAE governments for millions over this.. but they dont seem to be... I think someone high up has told them - like Hitler told VW over the T97 Lawsuit - "Don't worry mate, It'll be sorted, just you wait and see..". Hitler solved VW's problem by invading Czechoslovakia, I'm real curious to see what ObamaCo have planned...

    After all - the US Govt would be well within its rights to give the Saudi's a right royal kicking what with the way the dominos have lined up over the 9/11 situation and who is to blame. I suspect the pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan might be the prelude to a move on Saudi Arabia...

    *Goes to hide in her bomb shelter till it all blows over (or up, as the case may be)*

    1. Lance 3


      RIM is an American company? Since when?

      1. Lee Chong Yew

        Re: American?

        Um, since M$ bought them over?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RIM bend over to arabs. Who's next in their behind?

        Although RIM is not an American company. Nonetheless I would like to know which of it's shareholders are?

        Perhaps some of their main investors/shareholders might be rich arabs either. THEN ofcourse there's only one thing you can do... bend over!

        This is the problem in the entire western world. We forget that many shareholders/investors in Western (originated) companies are nowadays rich arabs. So it's no wonder that American/Canadian companies bend over for them as their original owners engulved themselves in greed and (suposedly) power.

        I suppose they "buy" themselves into these companies as a counterweight to the Anglo-Jewish deciding forces of many of North American-based companies (I mean the area North America here not the USA). This way they retrive the power to push things through with regards to that "small" problem area between Egypt and Lebanon.

        We're doomed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re : Jemma

      Actually if my memory serves me right, RIM is a Candian company, so your whole Muslims don't like the American Foreign Policy argument goes out the window.

      Do you work in the UAE ? From your article I guess not. I think the ban is to more to do with the fact they cant control the content on the phones. Using a BB in the UAE allows you to browse the web unrestricted as the requests do not pass through the ISP's within the UAE. This is probably where the ban is aimed at, as they like to heavily sensor the web.

      Please stop believing the media's view that Muslims hate the US and will do everything they can to block them. They need the US and UK as much as we need them.

      1. Manu T

        Re : Jemma

        And why is it such a problem to bypass UAE ISP's?

        Why does UAE suddenly wants to "monitor" BB-communications? The technology is over 10 years old. Why didn't they complain 10 years ago?

        Secondly if it's such a problem why do these arabs buy blackberries in the first place? Just stop buying these "foreign" products. Invent your own arabberries and use these. Those princes are rich enough to get any crappy chinese to make a proprietary arab device, shoot a satelite into space and restrict this to UAE-comms. They could ask the russians how to do it :-)

        I don't get these ppl. They seem to need western inventions, yet, they don't like the way we run our companies.

        If you don't like your data being "filtered" through the same canadian company that builds these things, because you don't trust them, then simply stop buying the products.

        Actions like these aren't gonna make the UAE popular outside arab-world and will infact fuell their already bad image even more in the western world (at least with the common man).


  11. Anonymous Coward

    I can see the conversation:

    Prince 1: Turn it of now

    Prince 2: Okay <click> done

    Prince 1: Okay email when you get back to the palace.

    [Prince 2 heads off]

    [30 minutes later - sound of phone ringing]

    Prince 1: Hello?

    Prince 2: I cant fricken email you, you tw*t, my blackberry isnt work

    Prince 1: Doh!

    Or some such - yeah it needs editing to make it more amusing.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      What did you mean ...

      ... by 'heads off' ?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well since Blackberry is now working again in Saudi....

    See update to the article...... I'm guessing nothing less than a plain text feed of all the messages would have appeased the Saudi government.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    This just goes to show

    That putting 21st Century technology in the hands of 7th Century society still leaves the society with a 7th Century mentality. The whole point of these bans has to do with control of the population, and nothing to do with terrorist or security.

  14. Andus McCoatover
    IT Angle


    Wasn't that the problem? The 'powers-that-be' wanted to be able to monitor all messages.*

    For protection against terr'ists.

    Er, why? The nationality of the majority of the 9/11 folks was, erm...I forget. Conveniently. I'ts on my Blackberry, but it seems a bit bricked right now.

    However, you can bet your shirt that no Saudi Prince's Blackberry has been locked.

    When my ex-missus was working as a nurse in Saudi, one of the princes, who'd been to Bahrain for far too much 'pop' died, the hospital director directed her to change the death cert. from Liver Cirrosis to "Heart failure".

    As she said to me later (paraphrased so I can use the IT icon) , "Truth is a constant in most countries, but a variable in others"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh yes, saudi arabia is stupid. Any country that's so filled with black gold yet.have people live in squalor, and still takes time to van a few encrypted messages is ... fill, plz..

    1. John Sanders

      This reminds me...

      Of when Yasser Arafat died on a French hospital a few years ago of an unknown "blood disease", they did not allow the full autopsy details to be published, not the blood results analyzed again by anybody else. See replace the four letter **** disease by something fancy and that way we cover the sin's of the faithful.

      Yes, do not hold yourself back and do some research on how the man got **** from someone's ***

  16. Han

    Good news for third world countries

    Don't hate me. Just a point of view. Gizmodo has reported that RIM agreed to place their servers locally to serve local users. It means in the near future the servers will fall under local jurisdiction. Hence, apart from enabling the respective governments to monitor the servers, it also means IT people and graduates in 3rd world countries will be employed. This is very likely because most 3rd world countries have some employment laws requiring foreign investors to employ locals. Naturally, tech and knowledge transfers will happen by some degrees. If this is true, 'equally before the law' will force all web companies having significant amount of users to open their offices store their servers locally. If all the 3rd world countries enforce this, soon Google offices and others will be everywhere. The knowledge gap will be closer. Win-win situation, for local people will get employed, foreigners will get the business and all the Big Brothers will be more paranoid than ever... Physical L10n. Yeah!

  17. Jesse Dorland

    RIM is not so innocent

    Why do you think European Union is moving most of its employees to iPhone, and HTC.

    As for protecting users Blackberry didn't mind sharing security "features" with China, and few other countries. Also, their so called "security" is nothing more then forcing Blackberry users' to sign "data contract" with mobile providers.

  18. AC34

    Alternative security

    Surely you can just use PGP or some other public-key crypto framework to make sure you have end-to-end security, where the plaintext never goes anywhere near a server - RIM or otherwise..?

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