Desjardins pleaded guilty to a lower charge of conspiracy, but the rest of the accused went to court to fight. They wanted to know exactly how it was that the RCMP accessed the communications they had sent each other in the days leading up to the murder. Operation Clemenza didn't bug the suspects' phones or install microphones in the smoke detectors.
To intercept the messages, the cops went to the service providers — either the suspects' cellphone company, Rogers; or BlackBerry itself. It's not clear if the RCMP went to one, the other, or both, but what was revealed in the case is that the RCMP obtained assistance orders and sent "comfort letters" to BlackBerry — known during the court case as Research In Motion RIM — asking for their cooperation in the case, and that the company's technicians consulted with the RCMP's technical unit on these efforts to decrypt the phones.
Assistance orders are legal authority, issued by the court, that can compel service providers — like Rogers, BlackBerry, and their ilk — to "assist" the police in carrying out other court orders, like wiretaps or search warrants. Comfort letters are harder to pin down. But, according to defense lawyers who worked on the trial, they are essentially assurances provided by police to private individuals or corporations that the actions being requested of the individual or corporation are covered by an existing court order.
The report details that the data is sent directly to a secure room at RCMP headquarters. Obtaining the messages is only half of the equation. The data sitting there, on RCMP servers, would still be encrypted, a meaningless string of letters, numbers, and symbols. The only way to make that data legible would be to open it on a BlackBerry with the PIN address of its intended recipient or use BlackBerry's global encryption code — the digital key that could break the lock on millions of private communications.
For consumer-grade phones, the decryption key is in the company's possession.
BlackBerry, however, also offers the option to run their BlackBerry Enterprise Server BES which allows clients to run their own network of phones, and keep possession of their own decryption key. The RCMP's technique likely would not work on those phones.
BBM (software) - Wikipedia
The report acknowledges in black-and-white that, as part of the process, "the RCMP server performs the decryption of the message using the appropriate decryption key. Judge Michael Stober, in a series of hearings in November , was enraptured with a question: where did the key come from? The question proved crucial for the defense counsel, who fought to be able to verify that the supposed decryption of their clients' messages were authentic, and done legally.
The Crown prosecutor consistently refused to answer, telling the judge in a public hearing: "I'm going to refrain from any comment because we're walking a very very fine thread.
I don't want to fall into a bear trap. Neither the RCMP, nor BlackBerry ever confirmed where the global key actually came from and the documents shed little light on the matter. They also didn't deny it. In fact, BlackBerry has recently signalled a willingness to deal with law enforcement on encryption, with company CEO John Chen writing last year that "we reject the notion that tech companies should refuse reasonable, lawful access requests. Through the course of the trial, the defense managed to get the Crown to admit that this wasn't just a key.
It was the key. This was Blackberry's global encryption key. Many of the hearings about the global key happened on an ex parte basis, meaning that the defense counsel were not allowed to attend. Crown prosecutors pulled out a variety of excuses as to why the information about the origin of the key, and the exact nature of BlackBerry's cooperation with the RCMP, should remain strictly private. In applications filed with the court, they cited privilege to avoid answering the court's questions on that matter.
They argued that disclosing the involvement of BlackBerry may "have a negative commercial impact on the company. At one point, the judge sided with the defense in ordering that the RCMP release the key itself to the defense, which would likely mean that the key — the one that can open millions of digital locks — would be released publicly.
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That request was later dropped. Alan Treddenick, Director of National Security and Law Enforcement Liaison at BlackBerry, swore in an affidavit that if the court ordered the RCMP to hand over details about the encryption key, or the key itself, in its possession, it would "potentially impact relationships with other end-users and law enforcement criminal investigations globally for all foreign countries that BlackBerry operates and provides communication services. Rouleau even admitted to the judge, during one ex parte hearing, that his own phone would be vulnerable to the type of intrusion the RCMP used on the targets of the investigation.
That's the reality of it, that's what we don't want the general public to know," Rouleau said. Both the defense and the Crown came to an agreement in the court documents — the RCMP used the global key. The court ultimately ordered the Crown to disclose to the defense virtually everything about the global key and how they obtained it, save for the key itself. The Crown appealed, and the next phase of the legal saga was scheduled for March 30, On Wednesday, March 30, the seven men accused of the murder walked into a courtroom in Laval, just north of Montreal.
Six pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, and the seventh confessed to being an accessory after the fact. At almost exactly the same time, the lawyers fighting on their behalf to reveal the details of this global key walked past the giant stone columns of the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal's Old Port and informed a three-judge panel that, in light of the pleas, the appeal would be discontinued.
Parsons said many BlackBerry owners assume incorrectly that their smartphones meet the same standards as BlackBerrys used by major corporations and the U. BlackBerry plans to launch a more advanced security service called BBM Protected for its business customers this summer. The company describes the technology as "a way for enterprise employees to speak safely and securely both inside and outside of the workplace" with an "unprecedented level of end-to-end security.
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