Indian Government Not Satisfied with RIM's Security Compromise

By Tracey E. Schelmetic March 16, 2011

Indian security agencies are not satisfied with a solution offered by Research In Motion for accessing data on its BlackBerry Messenger services, junior telecoms minister Sachin Pilot told parliament on Wednesday, reported Reuters.

RIM gave India access to its consumer services including the Messenger services in January, after Indian authorities raised security concerns, but said it could not allow monitoring of its enterprise e-mail. RIM has stressed to the Indian government that it cannot offer monitoring of encrypted e-mail, since users set the security key to encrypt the messages themselves.

The Indian government has been seeking full access to the encrypted messages, and its concerns are based on precedent: terrorist bombs planted in Mumbai by Pakistani militants in November of 2008 and resulting in the death of 173 people were detonated by cell phones. Since then, Indian security officials have stepped up the monitoring of wireless devices and data. Indian officials last year threatened to shut down BlackBerry’s encrypted e-mail and messaging service via an order to Indian wireless service providers that support BlackBerry; namely, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India. RIM has been trying to compromise with the Indian government ever since, and has won numerous reprieves for threatened shut-downs.

The Indian government has essentially been asking RIM for the same deal it reached with the government of Saudi Arabia. Last year, Saudi Arabian officials ruled they would not ban the encrypted BlackBerry services after reaching a preliminary agreement with RIM to place a server in the country to facilitate security monitoring.

Several other countries, most of them in the Middle East but also including China, have expressed concern to RIM that BlackBerry devices might be used to terrorist activities or distribute pornography.

The Indian government's communications security fears are not confined to Research in Motion alone: concerns have been expressed to both Google and Skype regarding the monitoring of secure communications.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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