BlackBerrys, the mobile devices favored by government agencies worldwide, are not manufactured in China because that would compromise their much-vaunted security advantage, according to the CEO of Research in Motion (RIM), which makes them.
“Very frankly, that is why we are not building or manufacturing in China, as many of our competitors do, to really protect our [software] code and make sure the [intellectual property] of RIM is protected,” said Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of RIM at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Waterloo, Ontario.
His comments Tuesday are the latest to highlight growing concern in the United States and elsewhere about the security of the globalized electronics supply chain, and especially about possible back doors or Trojan horses in Chinese-made mobile phones or telecommunications components.
Earlier this week, The Washington Times reported that Rep. Frank R. Wolf had warned his congressional colleagues against buying phones or other equipment from two major Chinese telecommunications suppliers, Huawei and ZTE.
Security specialists say that, in many countries, it is hard for foreign businesses to be confident about the security of communications and computing because of local laws and practice.
“It is untenable for RIM” to be based in China, said David Aitel, a former computer scientist for the National Security Agency. “That is a bed they just can’t get into. … How would their government clients react?”
“The reality is that RIM and other companies are being aggressively targeted by Chinese hackers,” probably working for the government, said Mr. Aitel, now CEO of computing firm Immunity Inc.
RIM spokesman Nick Manning told The Times that many of the company’s government clients around the world have legal restrictions against buying products made in countries with which they do not have a trade agreement.
“RIM has manufactured BlackBerry globally through contract suppliers, mostly based in Mexico, for many years, and we are further narrowing our supply chain to enhance cost efficiency,” he said.