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Indian Government May Opt for Third Party BlackBerry Decryption

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June 16, 2008

Indian Government May Opt for Third Party BlackBerry Decryption

By Nathesh, TMCnet Contributing Editor

An announcement from the Ministry of Telecom in India has stated that if Research In Motion (RIM) sticks to its inability to provide ways to decrypt the BlackBerry (News - Alert) e-mail encryption than the government will be forced to look in to the option of third party tools to crack BlackBerry.

"If they fail to come up with any satisfactory solution, we will invoke other options. We have been approached by other companies with solutions to decrypt the data passed over the BlackBerry network," said Telecom Minister, A Raja, during a presentation to the country's Department of Telecommunications.
This problem started when the Indian security agencies began to ask for access and the ability to intercept e-mails sent over RIM's BlackBerry service from RIM. The Indian government feared that such a device that cannot be intercepted will help terrorists as they claim terrorists are increasingly using the Internet and applications, such as e-mail, to communicate with one another.
The government wanted RIM to set up servers that could be monitored by Indian security agencies or provide a "master key" to look into data and e-mails sent from the company's BlackBerry devices. Additionally, security officials wanted RIM to lower its encryption from 256 bits to a 40-bit encryption.
The Department of Telecom had written to mobile operators providing Blackberry services in India requesting information on monitoring BlackBerry usage. Security agencies feel that they cannot decrypt encrypted Blackberry messages and the servers are not located in India. Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone (News - Alert) and BPL are among the operators who offer Blackberry services in India. Other BlackBerry service operators also insisted upon access and the right to intercept emails by the security agencies.
Even though RIM has assured that the issues with DoT will be sorted out, it has rejected the request for decryption techniques for its BlackBerry claiming that BlackBerry’s data encryption is designed so that no third party, or RIM itself, can access the data being transmitted wirelessly. The company also maintained that it's being singled out, as there are four other mobile e-mail products providing similar services that are not facing the same demands.
RIM is hoping to make inroads with Indian business customers, and its security features are a major draw. While there are only 115,000 BlackBerry users in India, the market for smartphones in India is expected to grow rapidly.
Nathesh is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Nathesh’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

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