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Hey DingleBerry, PlayBook Hacker Actually Likes RIM Device

DingleBerry
Is DingleBerry's root-access of The BlackBerry Playbook a real threat to RIM's seemingly iron-clad mobile security?
Is DingleBerry’s root-access of The BlackBerry Playbook a real threat to RIM’s seemingly iron-clad mobile security?

They say bad news comes in threes. Research in Motion should be so lucky.

2011 has showered the company with at least a dozen stories that have grabbed headlines, and none of them have been particularly kind to the BlackBerry maker.

From Mike Lazaridis walkout on BBC reporter Rory Cellan-Jones after being pressed on on BlackBerry security issues in India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to partying RIM execs who “chewed through restraints” on an Air Canada flight that had to be diverted, RIM faithful could be forgiven for counting the days until they hear Auld Lang Syne and wave goodbye to their worst year.

The latest, and potentially most menacing, of threats to RIM’s business came in the form of various headlines worldwide that contained the words PlayBook and hacked.

As the Globe and Mail reported, Chris Wade, an ex-pat Australian living in Manhattan, had jail-broken the Playbook and gained root access to the device. Jailbreaking allows users to run software not authorized or approved by the manufacturer or device carrier. In the case of The Playbook, many were using root access to get into Google’s Android Market, which has more apps than BlackBerry’s App World.

Unlike TeaMp0isoN, a group who took over RIM’s BlackBerry Blog after Research in Motion said it would share information with UK police forces about rioters who coordinated their efforts using RIM’s BBM service, Wade is not a shadowy mysterious Black-Hat Computer Hacker. In fact, there’s nothing particularly nefarious about jailbreaking a device. The vast majority of mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Android, have been jailbroken.

In July 2010, the U.S. Copyright office determined it was legal to root a device and run unauthorized third-party applications, and that it was also legal to unlock any cell phone for use on multiple carriers.

So is Wade gaining root access to the Playbook a a huge deal? Not according to Matt Hartley of the Financial Post. Hartley says that while headlines warning of a “damaging blow” to RIM’s “iron clad mobile security” made for good copy, the reality was that is wasn’t really true.

“Even if someone were to use the jailbreaking software which the hackers have dubbed “DingleBerry” said Hartley, to “break down a PlayBook and install a malicious piece of software, such as a keylogger, sources say the malware still wouldn’t be able to access the data being sent from the BlackBerry smartphone, since that data would be hidden behind a further layer of encryption.”

But in a recent podcast for CrackBerry.com, Craig Johnson, a mobile infrastructure architect who has extensive experience with the Blackberry Enterprise Server, wondered aloud whether gaining root access presents a client side security risk when RIM puts native email, calendar and contacts on the Playbook. The Playbook’s QNX operating system, which will be know as BlackBerry 10, will become the de-facto operating system for all BlackBerry Devices in 2012.

Cantech Letter caught up with Chris Ward to talk about the ramifications of his gaining root access to RIM’s new operating system.

Chris, do you think the PlayBook’s functionality after it is rooted makes it a better device?

Currently rooting doesn’t really provide the normal user with any added benefits. But hopefully over the next few months you will see more and more tweaks that will be much more appealing. We are working on adding a open store like Cydia for the iPhone. This will allow users to publish apps that get rejected from the app world. Other tweaks in the works are things like Hulu and better android integration.

Since most, if not all mobile devices are jailbroken anyway, should RIM just leave it be and shore up other security concerns?

RIM has no choice but to patch these jailbreaks. If they leave The PlayBook open then they risk opening it up to attack by malicious people. I just hope that this jailbreak will inspire people to buy the tablet and keep it alive.

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.

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