TSPs to deploy systems to intercept BB services by December 31

Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) have been directed by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to put in place the systems required to legally intercept BlackBerry services by December 31 this year. Research In Motion, the company that offers BlackBerry services, had suggested this solution to security agencies. 


Canada-based RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphones has been in talks with the DoT over the interception of communication exchanged using BlackBerry services, which are encrypted. In its note, the DoT shared that despite detailed discussions with RIM, the TSPs have not deployed the interception solution. The note added "...therefore, we may ask all the TSPs to comply with the Blackberry Interception requirement by December 31, 2012"

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RIM was asked to provide resolution and web-browsing requirements pertaining to the BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS), in consultation with the TSPs and their interception vendors. Subsequently, the company agreed to install its server in Mumbai. The note by the DoT added that all TSPs barring MTNL have responded, and their responses vary from two months to four. 


Blackberry met the requirements of the probe agencies after its services were red-flagged for security issues, as it was found that the content found on interception was encrypted and not in a readable format.


This is the latest development pertaining to what has been RIM's bone of contention with the Indian government for a few years now. The company had earlier on reiterated that it could not provide access to its enterprise email and messaging services as it did not possess the encryption keys for it, which are in the control of its corporate clients. Security agencies in the country found it difficult to monitor the brand's popular messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), owing to its encrypted nature. For over three years, the security agencies in the country have been trying to get the company to install local servers, so that they could access and monitor the stream of messages going back and forth to implement better security in the country.


As per a telecom department official and certain documents reviewed, RIM had provided the Indian government a solution that gave it access to corporate emails. In an official statement, the company had shared, "RIM is providing an appropriate lawful access solution that enables India's telecom operators to be legally compliant with respect to their BlackBerry consumer traffic, to the same degree as other smartphone providers in India, but this does not extend to secure BlackBerry enterprise communications."


In February this year, it had been reported that RIM had conceded the demands of the Indian government to set up servers in the country. In one of our earlier reports, we had indicated that the government was very close to achieving this breakthrough move, but at that time, a confirmation was awaited.


The server in Mumbai has been tested by the DoT, and the officials found it to be "a working solution". In addition to the encrypted BBM service, the government was also mulling over the issue of the emails sent over another popular service by RIM, called the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. As a solution to this, the DoT decided that it will resort to directly tapping into the corporate server in the country. This move came especially after RIM stated that it was not possible to set up a local server in the country. Directly tapping into servers was certainly not going to be an easy task for the government, since RIM has roughly 5,000 enterprise servers in the country. Hence, the DoT has decided to involve the telecom operators to list down the servers, in a period of a just over two weeks. 


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