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BlackBerry fault exposes BBC emails

The BBC has shut down its BlackBerry mobile email service after executives started receiving chunks of other people's emails

The BBC has stopped its staff from using BlackBerry devices after a flaw in BlackBerry Enterprise Server meant workers received portions of emails intended for colleagues.

The service was suspended after BlackBerry devices, used by 300 of the corporation's executives who spend the most time out of the office, started receiving fragments of emails meant for their coworkers.

A spokesman for the BBC said the problem was first spotted by one of the BlackBerry users.

The spokesman said: "We immediately suspended the service and the service remains suspended until we get assurances that it is secure."

The alarm was first raised early last week. It is not yet known how long the service, which is managed by Siemens Business Services (SBS) and uses Vodafone's network, will remain down.

An SBS spokeswoman said: "As soon as we were alerted... Siemens Business Services — in agreement with the BBC — suspended the BlackBerry service and contacted its supplier so this problem could be addressed. Siemens Business Services worked with the supplier and a solution was provided on Saturday 22 October. The service remains suspended until we get assurances from our supplier that the solution provided is secure."

BlackBerry makers RIM, however, said the flaw that plagued the BBC was a "rare conjunction of circumstances" which only occurs in a single service pack for BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

The company said in a statement: "RIM has developed and tested a fix for an obscure bug identified in a specific service pack release for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The bug was isolated to version 4.02 and does not exist in version 4.03 or other earlier versions. RIM is aware of a single reported incident of the bug and responded promptly with a fix."

According to RIM, which counts more than three million BlackBerry users worldwide, any errant messages resulting from the flaw did not make it beyond the corporate firewall and "the bug did not generate any external risk".

The issue of risk has figured large in Auntie's PDA strategy. In 2002, the BBC banned any of its staff from using devices not based on a Microsoft operating system.

The BBC also recently made headlines when the Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's former chief of communications, mistakenly sent an email from his BlackBerry to journalists at the Corporation. After blasting the journalists with a four-letter tirade, he apologised saying he was not "very good at this email BlackBerry malarkey".