Other Wireless Systems

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-08-17 Print this article Print

The security researcher who released a BlackBerry Attack Toolkit said that many companies using Research In Motion's handhelds may not be adequately protected, and that other network-connected wireless systems may be easy marks for similar threats.

D'Aguanno concedes that other wireless systems, specifically applications that maintain constant connectivity between handhelds and back-end servers, are likely open to similar attacks.

However, he chose to highlight the RIM situation since so many administrators appear to be adopting the company's products while ignoring BlackBerry's security features.

"The actual concept for the attack isn't specific to BlackBerry; BBproxy demonstrates how any solution that provides push technologies where a server component creates persistent tunnel between a handheld and the network creates the potential for this type of attack," said D'Aguanno.

Yet, the researcher leveled criticism at RIM at the same time, pointing out that the company does not make its strictest security settings a default, allowing users to download the types of unverified third-party applications that could be used to deliver a real exploit.

The connected nature of BlackBerry devices makes it such that the vendor should be more forceful in pushing tighter security settings, he said.

Despite the fact that Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM appears to have been singled out based primarily on its rapidly growing customer base, versus any glaring hole in its products, executives at the company said they do not feel it was unfair of D'Aguanno to publish the threat code or highlight the perceived security shortcomings.

All parties agree that BBproxy can be rendered relatively harmless by isolating BlackBerry servers on their own DMZ while limiting the types of network connections allowed to be made to the devices.

At the same time, RIM contends that such malware exploits are possible on nearly any mobile device, including smart phones and laptop computers.

The company also flatly denied that the threat could be passed through an e-mail attachment to an unsuspecting user, as BlackBerry Enterprise Server does not allow people to download attachments to the device.

Ian Robertson, head of RIM's Security, Research & Response business unit, said the company is committed to informing its customers of what steps they should take to best protect their wireless systems.

He said he also believes that most companies using RIM's technologies have put the proper security protections in place, which would typically escalate permissions to download unfamiliar third-party applications to administrators, rather than end users.

On the topic of whether or not RIM could beef up its default security settings for BlackBerry servers, he said the company prefers to leave the matter in customers' hands.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: BlackBerry and Brethren Carry Security Bull's-eye


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