Legal Magazine

Crime Can’t Hide Behind BlackBerry

Posted on the 12 May 2015 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw

The secrecy that shrouded the Petrobras corruption scandal apparently unraveled in part because of text messages.

It is now well known that Brazilian prosecutors uncovered pieces of the oil company scandal from the confessions of company insiders, who revealed an operation to skim hundreds of millions of dollars from the country’s largest oil company. The scheme’s broad scope included Brazilian lawmakers and construction contractors. But confessions are only part of the reason that the financial scheme came to light. The alleged wrongdoers communicated their scheme by sending each other messages through BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Before Apple and Samsung came to dominate the global smartphone space, BlackBerry established itself as the standard communication device for business. BlackBerry was favored for sensitive communication because the Canadian company encrypts messages transmitted across its BBM service. That encryption makes BBM messages more secure than standard short message service (SMS) text messages transmitted via other providers.

BlackBerry has long touted the security of messages on its system as a feature that distinguishes it from other telecom providers. But faced with search warrants, BlackBerry allowed authorities to review thousands of messages, Brazilian police and prosecutors said. Many of the messages were ordinary and mundane, the Wall Street Journal said, based on its review of transcripts of the messages. A sufficient number of those messages, however, were revealing, even incriminating. The messages reviewed documented arranged meetings, cash pickups, and bank transfers.

One of the alleged schemers, nicknamed in messages as “LA,” was easily identified as Luiz Argôlo, a former congressman. Police said they were able to identify him because he included his home address with his messages. The man he allegedly corresponded with is Alberto Youssef, who has already confessed in a plea deal in the case. Argôlo has denied any wrongdoing and the Wall Street Journal could not reach him for comment. Argôlo and 47 other politicians are suspected of taking bribes.

BlackBerry’s strong reputation for securing business communication apparently also led alleged criminals to believe that messages communicating about financial fraud would too be secure. But the ability of authorities to secure search warrants, as well as the willingness of BlackBerry to cooperate with the investigation, shows that technology is no shield for criminal activity.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics