Top IT stories of 2010 - August

BlackBerry bans, Mark Hurd out of HP, and the security risk from sticky fingers

Tags: 2010retrospective
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Top IT stories of 2010 - August Saudi Arabia and the UAE faced a ban on BlackBerry services (Getty Images)
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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 23, 2010

August saw probably the most contentious story from the region's tech sector of the year as several countries threatened to ban BlackBerry services, citing security concerns.

In Saudi Arabia, regulators ordered the country's three mobile phone operators to shut off BlackBerry instant messaging on the 6th August, although, following a reprieve to allow operators to test BlackBerry servers based in the Kingdom, it was finally announced that a deal had been done to allow authorities to have access to communications, although RIM maintained that it did not compromise its user's security.

In the UAE, the situation was not so swiftly resolved, with the UAE TRA announcing that it would suspend Blackberry services, including email and web browsing, from 11th October, claiming that it was due to "the failure of ongoing attempts" spanning two years to bring Blackberry services in the UAE in line with the country's telecoms regulations.

UAE operators Etisalat and Du raced to present alternative phone packages to BlackBerry in case the ban went ahead, while electronics retailers were told to stop activating new BlackBerry subscriptions. By the middle of August, talks between RIM and the TRA were reportedly making progress, but it would be another two months of uncertainty before the UAE's BlackBerry users would get a decision from the TRA.

Even in Bahrain, where no formal directive on BlackBerry services was issued by the authorities, Batelco was looking into alternative services in case of a ban.

And as a footnote, in a classic case of not helping the situation, the co-founder of BlackBerry, Michael Lazaridis, lashed out at foreign governments saying "if they can't deal with the internet, they should shut it off".

Another big story that would have lasting consequences for the industry was the announcement that Mark Hurd has resigned from his roles as chairman, CEO and president of Hewlett-Packard following claims of sexual harassment against him.

Hurd had been under an internal investigation by HP, and although he was not found to have violated HP's sexual harassment policy, he was found to have violated HP's Standards of Business Conduct code, related to personal expenses connected with a former actress and marketing consultant hired by Hurd.

Larry Ellison, a long time friend of Hurd weighed in with an email to the New York Times saying: "the HP Board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple Board fired Steve Jobs many years ago".

Also with an eye on proper behaviour, Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Haia, announced that it was setting up a unit to combat cyber crimes, most notably to deal with the issue of women being blackmailed online.

Touchscreen phones were identified as a possible security risk, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that it was possible to extract password data from ‘smudges' of oily residue from fingertips, that builds up during normal use of touchscreens, with certain types of phone login systems.

Pre-paid mobile phones were also pointed out as a security risk in Bahrain, where operators disconnected over 400,000 unregistered mobile phone lines. The lines did not have proper personal registration details of the users, which the Bahrain TRA said posed a risk from the illegitimate use of mobile networks by anonymous users.

Bahrain's TRA also confirmed what most people already knew, that all types of telephony and internet service cost more in the Middle East than in other parts of the world. The TRA commissioned independent research on behalf of the Arab Regulators Network (AREGNET), which found that in comparison to the OECD countries, average mobile tariffs in Arab countries are 80 to 100% higher, broadband is three times more expensive, and international calls are four to five times more expensive.

Intel announced that it will buy security company McAfee, for $7.68 billion, to give Intel a ‘third pillar' in computing, to complement its drives for power efficiency and connectivity, in future computing models. The deal would allow for the development of new ways of securing different types of device, according to McAfee.

Infrastructure hardware vendor Fujitsu Technology Solutions named Rolf Schwirz as its new CEO. Schwirz joins the company from SAP, where he was heading the software firm's ‘mature markets' business in EMEA.

Syria announced that it will allow a third mobile operator for the country. According to the Syria Arab News Agency, the new operator will enter the market in a three-phase process, "including initial rehabilitation, investment and technical rehabilitation and the financial auction".

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2010 retrospective