Govt for secure tele upgrades

Telcos oppose move citing huge investment

The use of social media to create unrest post-Assam violence has led North Block here to stress the urgency to upgrade telecom infrastructure in the country to make it more friendly to the needs of national security.

Union home ministry sources said that they have been arguing with the ministries of telecom and information and technology to make existing telecom model more security friendly – an issue they said they had flagged with the government after their experience in Jammu and Kashmir.

As of now the country’s internet global connectivity is through international gateways in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. More than ten submarine cables connecting the country with Middle East, Europe and South-East Asia provide the bandwidth through which the voice and video messages are passed on through telecom service providers. 

As per the telecom licence, the service providers are bound by conditions to provide interception facility at the doorstep of the nine law enforcement and intelligence agencies authorised to monitor cyber traffic.

The home ministry is pitching for a scenario to decentralise the facility of blocking internet content as per the internal security situation requirements – a demand that was felt after the Assam violence when disturbing video clips, mails and SMS were spread in some states, including Maharashtra and Karnataka to create panic among North-East origin people.

As of now, the government can block the disturbing cyber content at the gateways for the country as a whole by putting customised filters to block IP address and URLs, which indicates numbers of users of a particular issue on the internet.

But, the telecom players have been resisting the government move, citing huge investment in creating add on facilities. The players also are of the view that the government should invest if it wants more facility to monitor cyber world, as is the practice worldwide, said a cyber security expert who has worked with intelligence agencies.

He was also of the view that present telecom architecture, which has to balance between commercial interest and security demands, has enough features to meet the needs of law enforcement agencies.

This is the practice abroad, including in China and Europe. If they decide to ban internet search engines, they do it for the whole country and not for some provinces, the expert said.

The government is establishing central monitor system (CMS) to make single window authorisation of interception facilities available to agencies.

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