Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The BlackBerry Storm in India

There are currently 11 lakh Indians, the buttery band of society, who are nervously clutching their BlackBerrys, cat-and-mouse for the aftereffect of the Government's discussions with Research in Motion (RIM), the smartphone's makers, over acceptance admission to casework so that the intelligence agencies can busybody on users they would like to monitor. Articulation calls fabricated from BlackBerry phones use the approved GSM arrangement of bounded account providers and can be intercepted by intelligence agencies.

However, articulation calls fabricated from one BlackBerry to accession still account a botheration aback they are transmitted in a accolade format. The intelligence agencies can ambush them but acquisition it about absurd to breach them. They can be abandoned decrypted at the Canadian server of RIM. The aggregation has already accustomed Indian law administration agencies admission to voice, SMS and BlackBerry Internet Casework (BIS). It has promised to accommodate advice about assertive numbers that the Indian Government wants monitored for affidavit of civic security.

However, India wants more. It wants a alongside BlackBerry server so that it can accept absolute time admission to the absolute network, including the awful defended and encrypted BlackBerry Action Account (BES) and the BlackBerry Agent Account (BMS). BlackBerry's email account through the BES is the defining action of the phones. It offers accumulated entities a defended way of centralized advice through a committed personalised server.

- 5,000 phones are actuality clearly broke circadian by Central agencies alone

- 11 Lakh users of BlackBerry in India

In its innumerable discussions with the admiral of the home admiral and Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the Canada aggregation has claimed that alike they do not accept admission to the action servers, and that they will accept to "snatch" the abstracts from there. "From our end, there can be no compromise. We appetite admission to all kinds of advice accident on BlackBerry. And we appetite it absolute time," said a chief home admiral official. Behind the BlackBerry storm is the black apple of cyberbanking surveillance on Indian citizens which has been accretion over the years as technology struggles to accumulate up with law breakers, tax evaders and, aloft all, terrorists.

A aggregate of this surveillance is agitated out from a awful sanitised breadth on the seventh attic of the Badge Headquarters in Delhi. A belted admission area, it is staffed 24/7 by a dozen plainclothesmen of the Special Cell. They sit with headphones on in avant-garde of computer screens ecology up to 300 buzz numbers simultaneously. As abounding as 15 account providers accept accustomed them alongside curve to numbers of doubtable criminals, terrorists and their sympathisers. Delhi Badge sleuths accept in to the conversations with above-mentioned approval from the home ministry.

"The home admiral gets hundreds of fresh requests circadian for borer somebody's buzz or the other."G.K.Pillai, Home Secretary

Cracking the Berry

India is not the abandoned country to arise burden on BlackBerry over aegis concerns

UAE: Suspension of BlackBerry email, agent and web-browsing casework from October 11

SAUDI ARABIA: Suspended casework for a day on August 6 to put burden on BlackBerry to abode their aegis concerns. Talks are on.

INDONESIA: Wants a server to be placed in the country. Considering a ban.

LEBANON: Reviewing the service

FRANCE: Ministers and bureaucrats are banned from application BlackBerrys over abstracts aegis issues

US: President Barack Obama acclimated a BlackBerry abundantly and banned to accord it up at Oval Office. He was accustomed to accumulate it with added security, about which he abundantly said that it was "no fun."

In accession to the Delhi Police, there are six added agencies-Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau and the Narcotics Control Bureau-listening in to conversations of doubtable offenders. On an average, about 5,000 phones are actuality broke circadian by the Central agencies alone. These are the numbers for which approval has been taken from Home Secretary G.K. Pillai. He admits to accepting "hundreds" of requests for borer phones daily. For every cardinal that is broke legally, there are apparently 10 numbers which are broke afterwards permission. The cardinal of actionable curtains could be added but cipher can acquaint aback there is no record.

With the accompaniment badge additionally authorised to tap, the cardinal of phones actuality broke above the country could run into millions. Officially, the Government cites agitation as the capital account for its paranoia. It has asked account providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, Tata, Idea, BSNL and MTNL-which are accouterment BlackBerry casework in the country-to append BES and BMS on August 31. Pushed into a corner, RIM has asked for time to assignment out accoutrement for interception of BES but is alert of giving able admission to Indian agencies, befitting in appearance the lax acknowledged framework for ensuring aloofness and aggressive unauthorised e-surveillance.

Interestingly, the better cardinal of requests the home admiral gets for buzz borer are to ascertain tax evasion. The 2G spectrum aspersion involving Telecom Minister A. Raja was baldheaded afterwards lobbyist and pr adviser Neera Radia's buzz was broke for assets tax evasion. It after threw up an declared cabal to favour assertive players in telecom licences. Radia's buzz was broke for three months and complex 60 hours of conversations, with best accepting to do with the accumulation of the UPA-II chiffonier and administration of portfolios. When questioned about civic aegis apropos accompanying to tax evasion, Home Minister P. Chidambaram took pains to explain in Parliament how it anon threatened the abridgement and appropriately was a blackmail to the nation.

Apart from the Radia case, unauthorised borer of the phones of some politicians by the Civic Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) additionally created an uproar in Parliament. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley questioned the Government's motives. He argued that the Government had bootless to use e-surveillance finer to accumulate intelligence area it mattered, as in the case of Maoists. "Its clue almanac in accepting intelligence about jihadi agitation has been dismal. What it seems to accept concentrated on is on the acquisition political intelligence adjoin its opponents and conceivably adjoin some of its own members," he said.

Given this scenario, questions are actuality asked about the capability of accessing BlackBerry data. Aegis agencies and civilian alternative activists are watching carefully the accident amid the Government and rim to see how the antithesis amid aegis apropos and the appropriate to aloofness of an alone are maintained.

Tech companies too are befitting a abutting watch aback the affair can appulse added "secure and encrypted" methods of e-communication like Skype, Google mail and chat. Their altercation is whether India can action technology by banning it. "In accession to Skype, which is now abundantly acclimated by terrorists, there is freeware which bodies can download and use to encrypt their mails. Commercially accessiblecomputer application like Cellcrypt can be put in acute handsets for personalised encryption of data. The possibilities are amaranthine for those who appetite defended communication," says an it expert, who designscomputer application for intelligence agencies.

"Legally if there is no accessible emergency or blackmail to safety, the phones cannot be tapped." - Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha

Currently, intelligence agencies are ecology Yahoo mail and messenger, and Hotmail, which use low-grade encryptions. India has bootless to breach algorithms above 40 bits. BlackBerry uses Avant-garde Encryption Standard (AES) 128 $.25 while Skype uses alike college AES 256 bits. An Intelligence Bureau official admits that the adeptness to ambush mails has not yielded any above breakthroughs in the contempo past. Best terrorists do not accelerate mails but accumulate them as drafts that can be apprehend by others who accept admission to a user name and password.

The band-aid does not lie in banning technology but in evolving a cryptanalysis policy. For a country that boasts of the best it talent, the government does not accept any cryptographers or cryptologists. The NTRO has been aggravating to accoutrement a Civic Institute for Cryptology Research and Development at Hyderabad for the accomplished bristles years but is adverse the botheration of abridgement of affection manpower.

A home admiral official said that these are all abiding solutions, which are actuality looked into. "We cannot sit aback and avoid what is staring us in the face. These technologies affect the adeptness of intelligence agencies to analyze agitator operations," he added. That may be true, but the Government is consistently disturbing to accumulate up with abstruse advances and counter-measures. While it is anytime accessible to arrange technology that invades privacy, technologies that enhance aloofness accomplish it nervous. Just like the 11 lakh BlackBerry users.

Off the Radar

Some advice casework abide out of borer range

Skype: Popularcomputer application that enables users to accomplish articulation calls over the Internet and additionally for burning messaging. Skype has become the better articulation carrier in the world.

Google: While Indian intelligence agencies accept been able to breach Yahoo and Hotmail msn messengers, it has bootless to breach into Google mail and Google Talk agent service, which use avant-garde encryption.

Freeware: In accession to accepted encrypted services, there are innumerable chargeless softwares accessible on the Internet, which a user can artlessly download to encrypt emails, added abstracts and articulation calls.

Inmarsat: 4 accessory buzz Fresh bearing sat phones can be monitored off the air but the chat cannot be decrypted, authoritative it accepted with terrorists and added anti-social characters.