Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic RIM fact: Playbook Bridge hacked, RIM rumour: Samsung's a buyer?

RIM fact: Playbook Bridge hacked, RIM rumour: Samsung's a buyer?

RIM's status as a super-secure provider of email access has been dented a little thanks to news of a hack that could allow a very organised hacker to target a non-tech savvy Playbook user and read their emails and calendar entries, while the RIM sale rumours keep on coming, with Samsung fingered as the latest potential buyer.

Given how unpopular RIM's otherwise very nice little Playbook tablet has been compared with rip-roaring sales of the iPad 2, the news that the Playbook is hackable in specific circumstances probably isn't going to be much of a threat to Playbook owners, but it's still an obvious worry.

The news is all over the Internet, but Mashable's article reprinted in Fairfax Media's publications says that 'Zach Lanier and Ben Nell' of a company called the 'Intrepidus Group' found a 'weak spot' in the Playbook's 'BlackBerry Bridge' software.

This software allows a Playbook tablet to pair with a compatible BlackBerry smartphone, so the Playbook can 'securely' display emails and calendar entries on the Playbook, which in its version 1.0 software inexplicably came with no native email or calendaring application.

RIM's 'BlackBerry Bridge' software was supposed to connect both RIM smartphone and tablet together via Bluetooth in a secure manner, but as always, it seems nothing is unhackable, with the intreprid duo from the Intrepidus Group figuring out how to get through.

It appears there's a 'token' that the Bridge software uses to authenticate a BlackBerry smartphone, and it's this token that is discoverable - and hackable, thanks to a 'bug', if you know where to look.

Obviously, that's what security researchers do - muck around with hardware and software to find vulnerabilities - so they either already know where to look, or quickly learn - and then disclose those discoveries to the world if they are of the 'white hat' hacker variety.

However, RIM said in a statement to Mashable that: 'There are no known exploits and risk is mitigated by the fact that a user would need to install and run a malicious application after initiating a BlackBerry Bridge connection', with the article noting RIM's statement that the bug would be fixed in the forthcoming Playbook OS 2.0, which is not available yet but due, according to online reports, in the next few weeks.

Then there's the ongoing rumours over the sale of RIM and all of its software and hardware assets, including BlackBerry Messenger, to anyone that will buy it.

Concluded on page two, please read on!

The latest rumour, this time from the Boy Genius Report, suggests that Samsung is the latest company RIM has been targeting.

The one big problem? RIM wants too way much money, and are obviously very motivated sellers who aren't yet motivated enough to dramatically drop the asking price.

The company is supposed to be worth US $8.5 billion, but surprise, surprise, the company's two CEOs think it's worth a few billion more - even though Nokia, Microsoft and others are all already rumoured to have passed up the opportunity to snap up RIM.

The problem seemingly is... who wants to spend $10+ billion dollars during a time of renewed global financial crisis? Even though Microsoft kinda did just that spending $8.5b buying Skype? Obviously Skype was a lot more attractive to Microsoft than RIM...

And while BBM, or BlackBerry Messenger, once had incredible value, the rise of apps such as 'What's App' and of course iMessage itself on Apple's iDevices has helped lower BBM's value tremendously, as it's just a basic messaging program after all.

Samsung has naturally denied wanting to purchase RIM - you'd have to be crazy to say you're definitely interested, as that only puts the price up, just as saying you definitely want to sell can, in some circumstances, force the price down.

So'¦ RIM as a company is far from dead, with reports, for example, of people in Indonesia entering into Apple-esque lines around stores to buy RIM's latest and greatest in that country, but things aren't as rosy as they once were.

RIM's BlackBerry OS 10 still isn't here, supposedly waiting for better hardware first, and by the time it is released, RIM may well be the subsidiary of some other company.

RIM stands for 'Research In Motion'. Let's just hope that in 2013, they're STIM - Still In Motion.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.