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Enable interception or stop B'berry services: Govt to telcos

The government says said telecom operators will have to stop any such services that can not be monitored as per the satisfaction of law enforcement agencies.

twitter-logoPTI | February 14, 2011 | Updated 08:10 IST

Hardening its stance against Blackberry for not providing a solution to intercept Enterprise mail services, the government on Sunday said telecom operators will have to stop any such services that cannot be monitored as per the satisfaction of law enforcement agencies.

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has been saying that it cannot provide access to the popular BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) as it does not possess any key and the security architecture is the same around the world.

"It is between the licencee (operators) to tell RIM that look if you can't do this, you can't use my network. It is as simple as that. I have only to deal with the licencee. I do not deal with RIM matters. I do not have any agreement with Blackberry," Union Home Secretary G K Pillai told PTI.

He noted this was in line with a condition in the licence agreement between the government and service providers that states, "Whoever uses your network, we must be able to intercept that in a form to the satisfaction of the Law Enforcement Agency."

Asked whether the government has extended the deadline of January 31 for RIM to provide a solution to the satisfaction of LEAs, Pillai said, "We have not extended the date, but it has not been terminated also."

"Our aim is to make sure that whatever goes through our networks, we should be able, if required, intercept it... The issue is that we want that if you are using the network as per the licencing condition, there must be a provision for us to intercept... those which we want to intercept and that must be readable and legible format."

Eight operators including Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, RCom, Tatas and also two state owned firms -- BSNL and MTNL -- are offering BlackBerry services across the country and it has emerged a popular service among corporates for its enterprise mail service.

RIM vice-president (Industry, Government and University Relations) Robert E Crow, who was in India recently, had said, "There is no possibility of us providing any kind of a solution. There is no solution, there are no keys to be handed... It's not possible to do so because the keys of the service are in possession of the corporate enterprises."

However, the argument is not bought by the security establishment.

The Home Secretary said, "Even messenger services -- they all said we can't do it... We can't do it... Only when we said, okay, we are gonna close it down, they came and said here is the solution. I have a feeling... under pressure they'll do it."

There are over one million BlackBerry subscribers in India and the number is growing fast. Indian security agencies have been demanding access to all BlackBerry services as part of efforts to fight militancy and security threats over the Internet and through telephone communications.

"Certainly my perception is that there is a broader recognition and appreciation that this is not an issue unique to BlackBerry. BlackBerry represents a very small fraction of the total population of VPN (virtual private networks) in India. There may be more than a million VPNs in India with high security architecture," the RIM official had said.

There can be no change to the security architecture for BES in India or any other country as the decoding of BES emails by RIM is not technically possible, given that neither RIM nor the wireless operators are ever in possession of the customers' encryption keys, the company claims.

The critical issue is that the licencees must assert for the access.

"... We are not at the moment to the satisfaction. So we will be dealing only with the licencee and it is up to the licencee to ensure that we get it in to our satisfaction and if it is not to our satisfaction, then he cannot opt it. It is like the push button phone -- which came up 15 years ago -- we said it cannot be done and it was," Pillai added.

With inputs from PTI

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