Spyware Infects Etisalat BlackBerry Users

There's hardly anything that gets us at HotHardware more steamed than spyware, and we can only imagine how infuriated over 100,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE are after being fooled with a spyware-infused update. In a story that's sounds too bizarre to be true (but is, in fact, true), Etisalat--a major cellular operator in the United Arab Emirates--pushed out an update to its 145,000 BlackBerry customers that actually contained spyware.

The application was reportedly developed by SS8, and it promised BlackBerry users that it would improve performance. In fact, the company is still maintaining that the update was necessary for undisclosed "service enhancements." Regardless of what the carrier claims, the update caused all sorts of problems for users, not to mention enabling the carrier to access sensitive messages within the phone. Users began to suspect something after their phones starting failing, dying early and just acting strange soon after the update.

Thankfully, RIM--the maker of the phones--has stepped in to provide some relief. It has developed a new update that purges inflicted phones of the spyware, and it has even setup a dedicated website so users can find it and install it. The exact quote from RIM follows:

"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."

Like we said, this is completely crazy. It's not often that a phone maker has to step in and rescue users from something that a cellphone carrier administered, but it's unclear what kind of trouble (if any) Etisalat is in for letting this through.