Category: UAE

How Dubai got serious

Reuters | Oct 3, 2010 | 8:22am IST

Once filled with the cacophony of cranes and construction labourers, Dubai today hums to the work of a quieter crowd. The brash Gulf emirate, renowned for extravagant real estate projects and flashy living, has turned into a city of auditors.

Dubai As they pore over the detritus of last year’s debt crisis, the city-state’s accountants and lawyers face a task as huge as Dubai’s ambitions. The emirate’s flagship firm Dubai World has agreed to repay $25 billion of debt — borrowings that nearly brought down the emirate’s economy.

The auditors’ task is to investigate exactly where the money went, who lined whose pockets, and what other financial landmines might lay in store. Forensic audits at state-linked firms, such as Dubai Holding, are part of a wider corruption probe that has targeted senior figures from Dubai’s boom years.

But even as the accountants work to get to the bottom of the financial mess, Dubai is changing. Its rescue last year by Abu Dhabi — details of which Reuters reports here for the first time — has encouraged the city-state to become more conservative, both politically and socially. Dubai’s crisis prompted a shift of power to the rulers in Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates.

Now a chastened Dubai is recovering some of its confidence as it seeks to convince international investors it can deliver now where last year it failed.

Questions remain. With Dubai’s old guard at the helm rather than the young high-flyers who many blame for the crisis, can Dubai ever achieve the sort of growth it once boasted? Or, given that, the economy depends so heavily on trade and tourism; could it be tempted to return to the excesses of the past?

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RIM looks forward as India, other challenges loom

BBC News | Aug 27, 2010 10:34pm IST

BlackBerry from RIM Research In Motion, its global growth and its secure-email niche challenged by both rivals and governments, is preparing for a long fight it may yet lose on a shifting battlefield. The Canadian company’s BlackBerry smartphone was once a byword for safe corporate communication. But its North American market share has shrunk as some core clients loosen security specifications to let employees use alternatives like Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system. And RIM’s new BlackBerry Torch touchscreen phone, a possible rival to the iPhone, has met a muted reception. In a parallel challenge, India and other countries are seeking enhanced access to BlackBerry emails and instant messages. "Apple and Android have changed the world RIM created," said Ian Grant, the head of telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group. "But they’re actually expanding the universe more than they are cannibalizing it."

RIM launched the Torch amid unusual fanfare this month as it sought to reinvigorate its image with consumers amid a shrinking divide between devices for business and pleasure. But the high-profile launch failed to drum up even a hint of the excitement generated by Apple launches and no one lined up for hours at a flagship store — RIM doesn’t even have one. The Torch, which combines the familiar RIM keyboard with the sexier touchscreen and an updated operating system, may be a slow-burn device that catches up with competitors rather than overtaking them, but it’s not an Apple-style revolution. In its efforts to catch up, RIM has purchased an application storefront company called Cellmania to grow its revamped BlackBerry App World, whose 9,000-odd offerings are eclipsed by Apple’s 200,000-plus third-party applications.

Cellmania, bought for an undisclosed price, will give RIM a way to track downloaded content and let users have charges included in regular phone bills. Its clients include AT&T, which has exclusive U.S. rights to the Torch, Australia’s Telstra and Spain’s Telefonica. RIM has also claimed the web domain, in what industry-watchers speculate is a preparatory move toward launching a tablet computer of the same name this year — perhaps a secure, business-friendly rival to the iPad.

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India sets Blackberry monitoring deadline

India has sent formal notices to the country’s mobile operators telling them they must have equipment to monitor Blackberry services by 31 August. The move will increase pressure on Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) to allow Indian security agencies access to encrypted messages. Tata Teleservices told BBC News that the letter said it must “ensure that Legal Intervention (LI) capability is put in place” by the end of the month. RIM said it grants “lawful” access. A spokesperson for Tata Teleservices said: “As a Tata Group company, we have always abided by the law of the land and will do so here too”. Other operators have confirmed that they received a similar request.
‘Terrorism threat’
The government has said it will shut down Blackberry services if the firm does not meet its demands to give access to its encrypted messenger and e-mail services by 31 August. In statement released on 12 August, the government said that other Blackberry services, including voice and SMS traffic, were already “available to law enforcement agencies”. India, along with many other countries, believes the device and the Blackberry infrastructure are a threat to national security. Blackberry handsets automatically scramble messages and send them to servers in Canada and other countries. Authorities have said they want access to these messages and the keys to decrypt them to counter terrorism and criminal activity. The row in India is the latest in a long-running dispute between RIM and international governments. The United Arab Emirates was the first country to propose a block on the devices, followed by a raft of others including Lebanon, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A ban that was supposed to come into force on 6 August in Saudi Arabia has been postponed whilst the government holds talks with RIM.
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BlackBerry Concerns around the World – Graphic

Reuters | Aug 13, 2010 | 2:52am IST

Concerns are expressed over data encryption system offered by BlackBerry to it’s customers. Messenger services and email services offered to corporate customers through ‘BlackBerry Enterprise Server’ is associated with strong encryption system. Which means data that flows through ‘BES’ can not be seen by others including BlackBerry maker ‘Research In Motion’ based in Ontario, Canada. Because codes used to encrypt the data is chosen by corporate customers but not controlled by the RIM. ‘BlackBerry Internet Service’ (BIS) is meant for consumer customers and small business which doesn’t provide encryption level equal to that provided to corporate customers through BES. Various countries are concerned with this encryption facility due to different reasons. Some say militants and terrorists may make use of BES encryption system to hide their communications from the government. Some say such facilities may be exploited for viewing pornography.

Graphical view of different countries that expressed concerns with BlackBerry and number of customers belonging to those counties, is provided hereunder.

Source: Reuters

BlackBerry to give India partial access – govt source

Reuters | Aug 17, 2010 | 8:14am IST

Research In Motion has assured India of limited access to BlackBerry instant messages by Sept. 1, and promised talks this week on monitoring its more secure corporate email, a government source said on Monday. RIM faces an Aug. 31 deadline to give authorities the means to track and read BlackBerry Enterprise email and its separate BlackBerry Messenger service. The government, concerned about the potential for militants to use the secure BlackBerry network to carry out attacks, has vowed to shut the services if RIM fails to comply, cutting it out of one of the world’s fastest-growing telecoms market. “They have assured partial access to its Messenger services by September 1 and agreed to provide full access by the end of the year,” a senior government source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

New Delhi says it will pull the plug on the two key BlackBerry services if Canada-based RIM does not comply. Upcoming 3G network rollout is expected to boost smartphone growth in India. “We hope they will address our security concerns,” an interior ministry official said. India is not the only country pressuring RIM, which built the BlackBerry’s reputation around confidentiality. That cachet among corporate and government professionals may be slipping as the firm accedes to some of those demands. RIM shares slipped 4.8 percent in New York and Toronto trade. It has lost more than 11 percent of its market capitalisation since August 1, when governments in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they would also consider a ban.

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RIM Reassures Goldman, JPMorgan Over BlackBerry Concerns

Bloomberg | Aug 14, 2010 | 1:45 AM GMT+0530

Research In Motion Ltd. is seeking to reassure Wall Street customers about the security of its BlackBerry e-mail service as countries including Saudi Arabia and India press for more access to its network, said two people familiar with the situation. RIM has held at least one conference call in the past week with clients including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to discuss BlackBerry operations. At least one corporate customer has told RIM it’s not satisfied with the explanations so far and is seeking an additional meeting. The talks underscore the challenges for Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM as it expands in emerging markets as growth in North America slows. Sales outside North America rose to 37 percent of RIM’s $15 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year, up from 23 percent in the fiscal year ended February, 2005. Corporate customers such as Wall Street banks favor RIM’s BlackBerry because its encryption and other safeguards protect communications from prying eyes. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India have pushed for more access to BlackBerry services, out of concern the smartphone could be used to coordinate terrorist attacks or violate national mores.

Loopholes in System

Saudi authorities decided this week to allow the BlackBerry messaging service to continue in the country, after threatening a ban. RIM and the kingdom’s wireless operators are making progress in implementing a system to allow monitoring of user data, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency said, citing the country’s telecommunications regulator. Such reports have prompted questions from corporate customers about whether RIM is making concessions on the security of its software, said one of the people familiar with the conference call. RIM fell 77 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $53.40 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Since the U.A.E. said on Aug. 1 that it plans to suspend BlackBerry service, the shares have lost 7.2 percent. Continue reading

India to target Google, Skype messaging next – FT

Reuters | Aug 13, 2010 | 8:10am IST

India may shut down Google and Skype Internet-based messaging services over security concerns, the Financial Times reported on Friday, as the government threatened a similar crackdown on BlackBerry services. The Financial Times quoted from the minutes of a July 12 meeting between telecommunication ministry security officials and operator associations to look at possible solutions to “intercept and monitor” encrypted communications. “There was consensus that there [is] more than one type of service for which solutions are to be explored. Some of them are BlackBerry, Skype, Google etc,” according to the department’s minutes. “It was decided first to undertake the issue of BlackBerry and then the other services.”

On Thursday, the Indian government became the latest of several nations that have threatened to cut off Research In Motion’s encrypted BlackBerry email and instant messaging services if the Canadian company does not address national security concerns. India has set an Aug 31. deadline for RIM. It wants access in a readable format to encrypted BlackBerry communication, on grounds it could be used by militants. Pakistani-based militants used mobile and satellite phones in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. India’s demands follow a deal with Saudi Arabia, where a source said Research In Motion agreed to give authorities codes for BlackBerry Messenger users. The United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Algeria also seek access. Officials say RIM had proposed tracking emails without sharing encryption details, but that was not enough.

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