Complete ban on encrypted communications not desirable: DoT

Complete ban on encrypted communications not desirable: DoT

New Delhi: In some relief to BlackBerry, the Telecom Ministry is understood to have said that a complete ban on encrypted communications is not desirable as long as solutions exist to have the data intercepted in a readable format.

“Banning of encrypted communication is not desirable as long as some solutions exist to get the (data) intercepted in readable format. Therefore, accent should be on regulation of these services in such a manner that security assistance needs and communication security needs are balanced," an expert committee set up by the Department of Telecom (DoT) said in its report.

The government had earlier set 15 August as the deadline for RIM, the maker of Blackberry, to provide the country’s security agencies with interception keys to enable real-time tracking of its popular messenger and corporate e-mail services in readable format.

Besides RIM, Nokia is another player that provides a push mail facility to its subscribers.

The solution provided by RIM is being tested by the DoT, which is expected to give its report by the month-end.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) have been writing to the DoT that all types of communications, including encrypted communications, which take place through mobile devices, internet and websites, should be interceptable and made available to security agencies in readable, understandable, printable and audible format.

Earlier, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had also stated that if no solution is found for any encrypted service, those services should be banned or blocked.

The expert committee also said that service providers should take permission from the DoT before launching any enterprise or consumer service that could pose a security threat.

Permission should be accorded or denied within 15 days of receipt of the application, the committee said.

As far as possible, the infrastructure should exist in India, the report stated.

According to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the licensing terms and conditions for telecom service providers, companies are required to provide a lawful interception and monitoring solution for any service they provide.

RIM uses powerful encryption to encode email messages as they travel between BlackBerry devices and a computer - the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) - designed to secure e-mails.

RIM had earlier insisted that the company does not possess any master key to decode the messages, as it is randomly generated on customers’ Blackberry smartphones.

The government has extended the deadline several times to get a solution from RIM. It is estimated there are about one million BlackBerry subscribers in India.