BlackBerry has hit back at claims that Dutch police and forensic investigators are able to ‘crack' the encryption of emails and data stored on its devices.
"If such an information recovery did happen, access to this information from a BlackBerry device could be due to factors unrelated to how the BlackBerry device was designed, such as user consent, an insecure third party application, or deficient security behaviour or the user," the firm said in a statement.
The Canadian mobile developer, which boasts a strong focus on security and privacy reaffirmed that there are no ‘backdoors' in any BlackBerry devices.
"BlackBerry does not store and therefore cannot share BlackBerry device passwords with law enforcement or anyone else. In other words, provided that users follow recommended practices, BlackBerry devices remain as secure and private as they have always been," it said.
Yet the firm did acknowledge that it has very little details on the exact model of phone that was reportedly compromised by Dutch investigators.
"BlackBerry does not have any details on the specific device or the way that it was configured, managed or otherwise protected, nor do we have details on the nature of the communications that are claimed to have been decrypted."
Earlier this week Dutch investigators claimed to have the ability to ‘crack' PGP-enabled BlackBerry handsets to decrypt secure email content, according to confidential documents from a Netherlands-based national forensics agency.
A report on Motherboard said that the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) could uncover communications from custom-made BlackBerry handsets sold with strong encryption and enabled via third-party servers.
"We are capable of obtaining encrypted data from BlackBerry PGP devices," said NFI press officer Tuscha Essed.
These custom handsets, which have the option of encrypting texts and emails with PGP, are sold by a number of vendors online and are marketed to the security-conscious buyer. However, law enforcement agencies argue that they are routinely used by criminals to mask communications.
The news was first reported in December by Dutch website Misdaadnieuws.com, which published a series of NFI documents outlining the use of forensic software that was able to crack 275 out of 325 encrypted emails on a BlackBerry device.
The technology is reportedly developed by Israeli security firm Cellebrite, which sells a range of Universal Forensic Extraction Devices used by law enforcement and cyber investigators across the world.
The Guardian reported in 2009 that up to 35 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales use the technology. Cellebrite claims that it is "widely used" by the US federal government.
The Dutch report noted that investigators require physical access to the BlackBerry device to decode the information.
BlackBerry told V3 at the time it could not confirm the validity of the claims. "We are confident that BlackBerry provides the world's most secure communications platform to government, military and enterprise customers," the firm said in a statement.
The debate about smartphone encryption has intensified in the wake of several terrorist atrocities that police claim were enabled by the technology.
Yet only last week the Dutch government firmly backed the use of strong encryption by business, police and government.
"The government recognises the importance of strong encryption for internet security to support the protection of the privacy of citizens, for confidential communication of the government and companies, and for the Dutch economy," stated an official document from the country's Ministry of Security and Justice.
In comparison, the UK Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, now undergoing parliamentary scrutiny, aims to give police and intelligence agencies more surveillance powers, including the ability lawfully to hack into computers and smartphones.
The proposals, alongside concerns over the forced weakening of encryption standards, have met with strong opposition from technology firms operating in the UK, including Mozilla and Apple.
Most recently, Apple said in a written submission that any notion of ‘backdoors' or interception would weaken the protections in Apple products and "endanger" its customers.
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