RIM's reputation intact despite PlayBook hack

Hackers discovers vulnerability to gain access to PlayBook's hardware functions, but analysts say incident will not damage Research In Motion's strong reputation in mobile security.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

Three hackers exploited a vulnerability in Research In Motion's (RIM) PlayBook to gain root access to device in what was a rare breach for the BlackBerry maker but analysts said this will not adversely affect the company's reputation in mobile security.

According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, the hackers--who called themselves xpvqs, neuralic and Chris Wade in a YouTube video posting of the breach--gained root access to the PlayBook, altered the hardware functions of the device and used it to run Hulu. The Internet video service is not currently available on the PlayBook and Hulu has yet to release an app for the platform, it added.

The three hackers plan to release data of the tool, called DingleBerry, within a week, the report noted.

When quizzed by ZDNet Asia about the breach, the Canadian company reiterated a statement that was released on Nov. 30: "RIM is currently investigating this claim and have been in contact with one of the security researchers to discuss it. [We] will follow [our] standard response process to develop and release a software update that is designed to minimize adverse impact to our customers or carrier partners."

No negative impact
Commenting on the incident, Rohit Partha, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, told ZDNet Asia that for the hackers, being the first to hack a device that has gained security certification from the U.S. government would certainly bring "peer recognition".

However, he reckoned this will not be a big blow to RIM's reputation of providing the best security features on mobile devices since almost every other smartphone and tablet available in the market has been hacked or jailbroken, too.

Phil Hassey, owner of Australia-based research firm CapioIT, also said the case is "largely isolated". Of more importance is how RIM will react to the news. "If it patches [the vulnerability], move on and keep working to prevent it, then people will clearly realize that these things are effectively expected," he said.

Partha added that if handled correctly, the public relations surrounding the PlayBook device, which has had dismal sales and poor publicity since its launch, might even be improved. 

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