Messenger

BlackBerry service crash affects BBM messaging for millions

BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been experiencing problems with emails and messaging due to a power outage in Slough, UK. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Tens of millions of BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been unable to receive or send emails and messages through their phones, following an outage at the server systems of parent company Research In Motion (RIM) in Slough, Berkshire.

The outage, which occurred at about 11am BST on Monday, was still affecting users more than four hours later with no time given for when it was expected to be resolved.

The company released a brief acknowledgement of the problem at 3.30pm, saying: “We are working to resolve an issue currently impacting some BlackBerry subscribers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We’re investigating, and we apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused while this is resolved.

BlackBerry systems receive and send emails and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) communications via encrypted connections to RIM servers located around the world. The systems are particularly popular in a number of Middle East countries where they allow secure communication that the government cannot tap. RIM has come into conflict with a number of governments around the world, which have demanded oversight of email and BBM messages.

The failure will be a huge embarrassment for the company, which has been successful in building up its user base in the so-called “EMEA” (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region even while it has been losing users in North America.

At the end of August, RIM claimed that it had more than 70 million subscribers around the world. In July it claimed to have added 1 million subscribers in the EMEA region in less than three weeks. It would certainly have more than 10 million users in the total region.

The cause of the outage is not known, but one former RIM employee has told the Guardian that RIM has been ignoring problems with its server architecture that could prove its downfall for years. “They didn’t start looking at scalability until about 2007, when they had around 8m active devices,” the former employee said: “The attitude was, ‘We’re going to grow and grow but making sure our infrastructure can support it isn’t a priority.’ They have their own clunky infrastructure to do something that you don’t really need a clunky infrastructure to do anymore.”

The dramatic growth in the number of subscribers worldwide – nearly tenfold since 2007 – will have put serious strain on RIM’s servers if such scalability has not been addressed urgently.

Security-Alert: Active links in Messenger 2009 temporarily turned off to prevent a malicious worm!

A particularly malicious worm (a self-replicating computer virus) is currently trying to spread itself through many of the world’s largest instant messaging and social networks, including Windows Live Messenger 2009. We’re very serious about protecting our customers, and are pursuing multiple avenues to help stop its progress. The worm spreads by inserting a link into an IM conversation with a person whose computer is already infected. When someone clicks the link, it opens in a browser, downloads the worm on the recipient’s computer, and then repeats this process.

Normally, when Messenger sees a web address in a conversation it is turned into a hyperlink which, when clicked, automatically opens in a web browser. This feature makes it very easy for the malicious worm to be unknowingly installed on your computer by clicking on the link and being sent to a web site containing the malicious software. We’re pursuing a number of activities to help protect you, working actively with industry experts and law enforcement to help stop this criminal activity.

Most notably, we’ve temporarily turned off active hyperlinks for web addresses sent in IM conversations using Windows Live Messenger 2009. You will still be able to copy a web address and paste it into a browser window if you know it to be safe, but by removing active hyperlinks from Messenger 2009, we’re taking a significant step towards stopping the unintentional spreading of this worm.

Because we’ve now blocked active links in Messenger 2009, starting today, some customers may also see a notification in the main Messenger window warning them that some features might not be available.

Messenger 2011 is not impacted in the same way, thanks to its Link Safety feature. However, we are actively monitoring the situation and investigating different approaches to help protect customers using the latest version of Messenger, should the situation change.

As always, we encourage customers to exercise caution with links to web pages that you receive in IMs, especially if the links are to a web page that you are not familiar with, unsure of the destination of, or suspicious of. Malicious software may be installed in your computer simply by visiting a web page with harmful conteaqnt.

“If you think your computer may have already been infected by a malicious worm, check the , please visit the Source Security TechCenter on Microsoft TechNet, and then download and use the Source malicious software removal tool. For additional help with Messenger, check out the Source Messenger Solution Center

Source Windows Team Blog.

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