DoT reviews RIM’s solution for messages

DoT reviews RIM’s solution for messages

New Delhi: The department of telecommunication (DoT) is looking into the solution provided by Canada-based Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) that will allow India’s security agencies to monitor messages sent from or to BlackBerry devices.

The government had threatened to ban the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise Service and BlackBerry Messenger Service if it did not provide security agencies the option of accessing messages exchanged. The Canadian firm was given until the end of October to provide a solution, after it failed to meet a 31 August deadline.

“We are looking at some solutions provided by RIM. We will see (which one works) once the results of the testing is complete," said a senior DoT official. “The solution that they have proposed has to be reviewed and accepted by the security agencies," added this person, asking not to be identified. The move follows a DoT directive to all telecom service providers last week to upgrade their networks.

An executive with a large telecom operator said the firms were asked to incorporate in their backend network, a mini-server capable of running a solution provided by RIM. Mint could not independently verify this information.

“All the operators have submitted the requested compliance certificates," a second DoT official said, referring to the arrangement. “The authorities are looking at a solution that allows manual monitoring, but this is very tedious and there is some ongoing discussion of a solution that would make all the monitoring automatic."

The telecom executive and the second DoT official too asked not to be identified.

India, which has faced several terror attacks in recent years, believed the encryption on BlackBerry communication networks is a security hazard. RIM has, in principle, agreed to set up a server in India to facilitate information access.

The government has also sent notices to Google Inc. and Skype demanding access to their Internet-based communication services. They, too, will be asked to set up servers in India. In an emailed reply, RIM reiterated that it won’t provide the government the text of messages sent or received on BlackBerry devices.

“RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government (but) assures both its customers in India and the government of India that RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries," a company statement said.

The statement added it is technically impossible for RIM to give access to emails sent through BlackBerry, and the company won’t relax the encryption protection for corporate emails because customers valued their privacy.

Associated Press reported that RIM, however, will not object if companies that use BlackBerry phones themselves wish to hand over the encryption keys to their emails to the government.