BlackBerry agrees to address India's security concerns

Last Updated 29 July 2010, 10:52 IST

"BlackBerry has assured the Ministry of Home Affairs that the issue of monitoring of the BlackBerry will be sorted out soon...I am sure we will soon be on the same page and our concerns will be addressed," Special Security (Internal Security) in the MHA Utthan Kumar Bansal told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

Government has already warned the popular smartphone company that if it does not allow it to monitor emails and SMSes to address security concerns, it will have to close down operations in the country, spelling trouble for over a million BlackBerry users in India.

The government has said the RIM will have to address its security-related issues by allowing monitoring facility in India.

Bansal said the Department of Telecommunication was the nodal authority which makes the policy and it was working to address the issue raised by the MHA.

The MHA has asked the DoT to tell the company in no uncertain terms that its emails and other data services must comply with formats that can be monitored by security and intelligence agencies.

There are reports that China has got a server in that country and the MHA asked the DoT to check whether it is true.

Government also wants a BlackBerry server in India but the company has been resisting the move. Once the server is in India, it will be easier to track the messages.

The MHA maintains that the RIM has been addressing security concerns of several other countries, including the United States, where it operates and, therefore, there is no justification to not comply with the same in India.

BlackBerry says the messages are encrypted. The smartphone's server is based in Canada where the encryption level is very high and extremely difficult to crack. And any message going through a Canada server is encrypted and, therefore, cannot be accessed by intelligence agencies in India.

Senior officials of key security agencies at a recent meeting argued that the continuation of BlackBerry services in the present format poses danger to the country. The meeting was attended by representatives of the MHA, DoT, intelligence agencies and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).

The latest development indicates that security agencies are again finding it difficult to intercept or decipher messages sent through these phones, which use codes with an encryption of 256 bits.

This encryption code first scrambles the emails sent from a BlackBerry device and unscrambles them when the message reaches its target.

In 2008, the Indian government had threatened to block BlackBerry services unless the RIM provided intelligence agencies here access to all data, especially emails, routed through these handsets.

The government had also insisted that the RIM put in place a system that would allow them to intercept data sent through these handsets as it feared that these services could be exploited by terrorists.

After several rounds of talks between the government and the RIM, the telecom department, in late 2008, had announced that the issue had been resolved.

Leading telecom companies in India such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, BSNL and MTNL offer BlackBerry services.

(Published 29 July 2010, 07:44 IST)

Follow us on