IISc lab to keep telecom network bug-free

Blore centre will test and certify equipment against spy software

The IISc lab, to be set up at a cost of Rs 60 crore, has the objective to ensure that the country’s telecom network is free from any malwares or security bugs.

Disclosing this at a press conference here on Thursday, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said: “The proposed centre would formulate standards and policies as well as provide facilities for testing, validation and security certification for various network elements, in a bid to make networks secure and less vulnerable from internal and external threats”. The lab covers both hardware and software aspects of the telecom industry.

The test lab is billed as an answer to the security concerns expressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs that enemy countries can make India’s telecom system dysfunctional by planting bugs or spy software. As most of the Indian telecom equipment are imported ones, the Ministry also suggested that the government should take steps to secure telecom network. The estimated cost of the proposed testing centre will be around Rs 60 crore for which Rs 50 crore will be funded by the Union government.

IISc had earlier run a pilot project on the same issue in association with the Department of Telecom. In this regard, a high level experts team led by N Balakrishnan, Associate professor of IISc, had visited UK and studied how British Telecom ( BT) was handling similar issues.

The testing centre will approach all telecom equipment suppliers to Indian telecom companies and ask them to provide source code and certify independently to ensure that telecom hardware is free from malwares/security bugs.

The IISc has already initiated the process with Huawei of China and simultaneously contacted other major suppliers like Cisco and Juniper to share internal details of their telecom equipment like detailed design document and internal architecture which are vital for detailed testing.

“Huawei responded proactively before other vendors and hence the requisite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on June 15 between the IISc and Huawei,” Sibal said while rejecting the claim that the government has collaborated with Huawei to provide documentation, expertise, methods and standards for studying telecom equipment.

“We are not collaborating with any company to set up our testing laboratory,” he said while making it clear that all the foreign vendors will have to share their architecture for India to develop its own security protocol. The MoU signed with Huawei was more like a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that information that IISC gets from Huawei is not disclosed to others. Similarly, the IISc will sign MoU with other telecom equipment providers, the minister said.

In case of any breach of security, the service providers and vendors would be held responsible and it may lead to cancellation of their licences and imposition of hefty penalties.

“It may be understood that Huawei is not helping IISc, Bangalore to setup any lab as the institution set up the same as part of the pilot project, where in all equipment and software are theirs,” Sibal added.

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