RCMP used wireless signals to decode BlackBerry messages in organized crime investigation


A judge has lifted a publication ban on the shooting of Salvatore Montagna, a member of the New York crime family killed outside Montreal in 2011.

According to the CBC, the RCMP reportedly utilized covert wireless signal catchers to intercept and decrypt messages relating to the investigation that resulted in the conviction of mobsters this past Spring.

MobileSyrup previously reported on BlackBerry’s willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and their criticism of Apple’s refusal to do so in the San Bernardino terrorism case.

Furthermore, reports had previously been released which suggested that the RCMP had been given backdoor access to to BBM since at the latest, 2010.

These reports indicate that the RCMP had a server in Ottawa capable of using the “appropriate decryption key” to intercept messages sent between BlackBerry devices, alluding to the possibility that the RCMP had obtained BlackBerry’s global encryption key.

These court documents were originally obtained by Vice Canada and didn’t reveal how the RCMP obtained BlackBerry’g global encryption key. Furthermore, clear privacy implications were identified.

While many questions linger about BlackBerry’s role in the RCMP’s investigation, court documents outline the tactics used by the law enforcement agency to identify the men’s cell phones and therefore intercept and decrypt their messages.

It can be officially stated that the RCMP has a “Covert Intercept Unit” that relies on mobile device interceptors to identify smartphones. The RCMP testified during the trial that this technology is currently being used in multiple court cases across the country not excluding those regarding murder, organizes crime and drugs.

An affidavit was provided by Alan Treddenick, BlackBerry’s national security and law enforcement liaison, during the trial to ensure that BlackBerry’s encryption key was not made available to the public. Both BlackBerry and the RCMP have refused to comment on whether the smartphone manufacturer assisted the RCMP in obtaining its global encryption key.

MobileSyrup previously reported that BlackBerry resources have been used to assist in police investigations. At the time of that report, originally published by the CBC, none of the sources involved were allowed to comment. However, BlackBerry has stated in the past that it believes part of its role as a major tech company is to comply with reasonable government requests.

More to come…

Related readingThe RCMP has had backdoor access to BBM since at least 2010