Etisalat reportedly sent out a patch last week that turned out to be surveillance software designed to copy received e-mails. The carrier, however, said the software was a patch designed to ease 2G to 3G handoffs.
"RIM confirms that this software is not a patch and it is not a RIM authorized upgrade," RIM said in a statement.
According to several reports, the spyware attack hit roughly 145,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE last week when those users were prompted to update their smartphones.
RIM in the statement said the update was not the enhancement it was advertised to be, but instead an application that let Etisalat keep tabs on users' messages through spyware.
"Etisalat appears to have distributed a telecommunications surveillance application ... Independent sources have concluded that it is possible that the installed software could then enable unauthorized access to private or confidential information stored on the user's smartphone. Independent sources have concluded that the Etisalat update is not designed to improve performance of your BlackBerry handheld, but rather to send received messages back to a central server."
Etisalat, however, maintains that the update was "required for service enhancements," despite RIM's statement to the contrary.
RIM added that third-party patches "cannot provide any enhancements to network services as there is no capability for third parties to ... make such improvements to the communications between a BlackBerry smartphone and a carrier's network."
RIM is providing BlackBerry users who performed the update a downloadable application remover to shut down the unwanted forwarding of emails.
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