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[liberationtech] Govt of India seeks help from INTERPOL and US Agencies to intercept encrypted messages from BlackBerry, Gmail, Nokia and Skype

Samujjal (Shayan) Purkayastha me at
Mon Jan 2 12:24:48 PST 2012

This after the standoff between the Government and RIM in 2010 which
resulted in some sort of closed agreement, which obviously hasn't been good
enough for the government.

DoT looks to US agencies to intercept encrypted messages from BlackBerry,
Gmail, Nokia and Skype
 NEW DELHI: With Indian security agencies being unable to intercept
encrypted communications from BlackBerry, Google's
, Nokia <> Pushmail and
internet telephony provider
among others, the telecom department has sought the expertise of US
agencies - on both technical and regulatory fronts - on intercepting such
messages in a readable format.

The telecom department (DoT) had conveyed this request to Interpol
Secretary-General Ronald K Noble, who was in India last month, officials
aware of the discussions said.

The development comes as the Indian security agencies have been searching
for options to intercept encrypted communications after several setbacks on
this front. Last year, as first reported by ET, a government panel set up
to examine security threats regarding 15 forms of communications, including
Google's Gmail, Research in Motion's
Nokia's email offerings and Microsoft Skype, among others, that cannot be
tracked by law enforcement agencies here, had ruled that no service be
banned purely on the grounds that it cannot be monitored.

Besides, as a long-term solution, the committee has recommended that the
upcoming Central Monitoring System be made capable of intercepting any form
of communication service offered within the country. But the Home Ministry
and Intelligence Bureau whose members were part of the panel, did not sign
these recommendations and had given their dissent note.

The panel has also said that a short-term solution involved India forcing
operators who offer such services to either locate servers in the country
or share encryption keys with security agencies and assist security
agencies here in monitoring these services.

The government had then decided that a committee of senior officers would
negotiate with telcos, handset makers and internet companies towards
implementing the recommendations of this panel. But this has not happened
yet as the home ministry hasn't given its opinion on banning services
offered these companies.

In their meeting with Interpol's Noble, the DoT representatives also
highlighted their stance that India centric content - online and mobile -
must be under the preview of Indian laws. The DoT therefore is of the view
that 'solution providers companies must also adhere to the laws of the
country from where the content has originated', internal department
documents related to the meeting with Noble adds.

The DoT is also learnt to have brought up the issue of telecom equipment
testing. India has already stated that all imported mobile gear will be
tested at Indian labs from 2014. In the interim, it is mandatory for mobile
phone companies to get their networks audited once a year by reputed
international agencies for bugs and other security breaches.

Internal documents reveal that the DoT, during the meeting with the
Interpol Secretary-General, had explored the possibility with cooperating
with US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Samujjal Purkayastha
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