Govt panel wants BlackBerry to provide ‘PIN details’ of all its handsets
NEW DELHI: A government panel has recommended that BlackBerry be asked to provide access to ‘PIN’ details of all its handsets across the globe to enable intelligence agencies in the country to track messages exchanged between Indian subscribers and those living abroad.
Currently, Canada’s BlackBerry has provided PIN details of handsets “that have been officially shipped to India and has not provided data pertaining to other countries due to privacy and legal provisions”, according to a telecom department (DoT) report reviewed by ET.
Each BlackBerry handset has a unique pin that cannot be changed and is locked to the phone. The panel in its report, dated 31 December, has said that if incoming and outgoing messages from BlackBerry users abroad to customers here can only be tracked if the government has access to PIN details of the “entire world”.
Such demands are unlikely to be acceptable to BlackBerry and may reinforce perceptions that India is a difficult place to do business.
On December 10, BlackBerry had demonstrated interception solutions it had put in place to address security concerns raised by India. Representatives from the telecom ministry as well as the Intelligence Bureau were present for these tests that were carried out Vodafone’s data centre in Sahas (Mumbai).
In its report on testing the interception facilities provided by BlackBerry, this panel has proposed that India must take over the monitoring infrastructure built by the Canadian company in Mumbai. The handset maker had set up servers and other interception facilities in Mumbai in 2011 after India had threatened to shut down BlackBerry services.
The panel has also recommended a slew of additional demands that is set to intensify the long-running dispute between security agencies here and the Canadian firm. It has recommended that BlackBerry be mandated to provide access to the web-browsing facilties on its handsets on a readable format (decrypted) and also allow intelligence agencies here to track e-mail attachments on a real-time basis by April 2013.
The Blackberrry Messenger (BBM) service is popular globally, but chats exchanges through this service are difficult to intercept. The intelligience agencies have alleged that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attack of 2008 used this service to evade survailence.
The report also adds that during the tests, web-browsing facilities on Blackberry handsets were intercepted using solutions offered by the Canadian company, but these were not in the readable format. It adds that BlackBerry had offered to develop and deploy a new solution by April 2013 to address this concern.
BlackBerry has also presented an ‘intermediate solution’ to track attachments on email and is in the process of developing a ‘final solution’ to address this issue, the panel’s report said. It further adds that BlackBerry would also provide a solution to enable intelligence agencies determine if messages exchanged on BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) have been ‘delivered’ and ‘read’.
The government had mandated all mobile operators to connect their networks with the interception facilities set up by BlackBerry in Mumbai by 2012-end. The report states that all telcos with the exception of MTNLBSE 0.86 % had complied. All mobile phone companies are currently testing the interception facilities on their networks and these are being undertaken in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.