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Merkel bets on BlackBerry to beat cyberspies

Berlin has signed an anti-spying deal with BlackBerry, allowing the Canadian phone maker to take over Germany's Secusmart. The encryption software maker outfits government phones, including that of Chancellor Merkel.

The German Economics Ministry said Friday it had approved of the takeover of German software firm Secusmart by Canadian mobile phone maker BlackBerry.

In a statement the ministry said it had "thoroughly scrutinized" the transaction to see if it violated "essential security concerns."

The German government uses about 2,500 BlackBerry devices outfitted with Secusmart encryption software. The handsets incorporate a Secusmart microSD that acts as a separate hard drive for confidential information which can't be accessed by hackers.

Watch video 01:34

Government IT security compromised

No-spy deal

According to German media reports, BlackBerry had accepted far-reaching control powers for the German government in exchange for the Secusmart takeover to go ahead.

BlackBerry reportedly agreed to give Germany's cyber security agency BSI full insight into the source code of BlackBerry's operating system and immediately report security problems to BSI. In addition, the deal included a binding obligation for BlackBerry not to pass on confidential information to foreign intelligence agencies, the German media said.

The German Economics Ministry didn't confirm details of the deal, saying only that a contract had been signed to protect essential "security interests."

In 2013, Germany was scandalized by revelations from the Snowden files that Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone had allegedly been tapped by United States' intelligence agency NSA. The takeover of Secusmart by BlackBerry raised concerns among German lawmakers as Canadian officials are known to be working closely together with US-based spy agencies.

uhe/cjc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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