x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Etisalat: Blackberry problem 'limited'

The UAE mobile provider says a software patch caused battery problems in "a very limited number of devices."

Etisalat has remained tight-lipped on the controversy surrounding the software patch, which users say caused their handsets to overheat and rapidly lose battery power.
Etisalat has remained tight-lipped on the controversy surrounding the software patch, which users say caused their handsets to overheat and rapidly lose battery power.

Etisalat said a controversial software upgrade sent to its BlackBerry customers led to battery problems in "a very limited number of devices" in a statement issued Wednesday. The company said the software was designed to improve the quality of network connections for its users, after numerous allegations that it contained a digital eavesdropping tool. In recent days the company has remained silent on the controversy surrounding the software patch, which caused mobile handsets to overheat and rapidly lose battery power. "These upgrades were required for service enhancements particularly for issues identified related to the handover between 2G to 3G network coverage areas," the company said in a statement. "A conflict in the settings in some BlackBerry devices has led to a slight technical fault while upgrading the software of these devices." Etisalat's statement was its first public response to three days of inquiries from customers and the local and international media. Interest in the story has increased after allegations by computer experts that the software was designed to help monitor and intercept e-mails and text messages, bypassing BlackBerry's strong encryption and security system. A copy of the software patch, uploaded to the internet by a local user, contained application files named "interceptor", stamped with the signature of SS8, a company that provides communications operators with monitoring and interception systems. Nigel Gourlay, who first analysed the code and shared his findings online, said the software forwarded messages to another server, most likely an Etisalat server, thus breaking through the Blackberry's security. Etisalat said it has received 300 official complaints regarding the BlackBerry software upgrade, but did not comment on how many users had been affected by the patch. The company is advising customers experiencing problems related to the software upgrade to contact its call centre, which can "resolve the issue completely". Call centre agents are advising customers to disable the software through the BlackBerry's application settings. tgara@thenational.ae