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article imageWere Blackberrys modified to help drug cartels?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 18, 2018 in Technology
Toronto - It appears that some Blackberry devices were modified to 'help drug cartels', according to U.S. authorities. The allegation is that Canadian company Phantom Secure sold modified Blackberry devices for illicit reasons.
The chief executive of Phantom Secure, which set out to create highly-secure version of the Blackberry smartphone, allegedly sold the devices to some of the world's most notorious criminals, the BBC reports.
The allegation from the U.S. , as reported by Newsweek, is that the Canadian firm was given"tens of millions of dollars" through selling modified Blackberry smartphones to such groups as Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel is an international drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime syndicate. The organization is based in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa, although it has operations in the Mexican states of Baja California, Durango, Sonora, and Chihuahua.
Phantom Secure appears to have taken what appear to be BlackBerry 9720s and removed the microphones, camera, GPS, Internet capabilities, and normal messenger services. The company then seems to have added Phone Gap Documents (PGP) and routes messages through overseas servers.
In a redacted complaint filed in a federal court, the FBI alleges states that: “Phantom Secure’s networks were specifically designed to prevent law enforcement from intercepting and monitoring communications on the network,” and that there are some 20,000 encrypted Blackberry cellphones from the company in the hands of some dubious individuals.
The charges represent the first time U.S. officials have focused on a company for knowingly developing encrypted technology designed for criminal elements. This stems from the U.S. Department of Justice arresting Vincent Ramos in Seattle and subsequently indicting the businessman together with four of his associates (Kim Augustus Rodd from Phuket, Thailand; Younes Nasri from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; and Michael Gamboa and Christopher Poquiz both from Los Angeles). The charge leveled is one of racketeering and conspiracy to aid the distribution of drugs in the U.S.
Speaking with the BBC, attorney Adam Braverman said: "This organisation Phantom Secure was designed to facilitate international drug trafficking all throughout the entire world...These traffickers, including members of the Sinaloa Cartel, would use these fully-encrypted devices to facilitate their drug trafficking activities in order to avoid law enforcement scrutiny."
Furthermore, FBI Agent Nicholas Cheviron told Fox News: "Phantom Secure’s devices and service were specifically designed to prevent law enforcement from intercepting and monitoring communication on the network. Every facet of Phantom Secure’s corporate structure was set up specifically to facilitate criminal activity and obstruct, impede, and evade law enforcement."
Blackberry itself has not, as yet, responded to any media inquires.
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