Putting an end to the long lasting dispute between the Indian Government and Canadian Smartphone maker BlackBerry (BB), the lawful interception system for BlackBerry service is now ready to use, reports Times of India.
The interception of BB services will allow law enforcement agencies in the country to track emails, attachments, BBM chats, web browsing history from BlackBerry devices in the country. Note that, BlackBerry Enterprise Server has been left out of the interception solution which means corporate emails won’t be under scrutiny.
Department of Telecom (DoT) documents reviewed by the publication states that nine of the 10 telcos providing BlackBerry services were in the process of deploying interception solution. MTNL, BSNL and SSTL have not yet installed the interception system on its network, while SSTL being the only telco in the country to not have communicated a deadline, as indicated by the report.
Government will also acquire interception facility developed and installed by BB in Mumbai in April 2012. BB will also train 5 government officials at its Ontario facility to handle the technical architecture, operation and maintenance of the monitoring facility.
It should be noted that the Indian government is likely to install Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) in 10 out of 22 service areas in the country, by the end of this year. And BlackBerry’s interception service seems to be right on time complying with the CMS implementation deadline. The kind of data the government plans to collect with CMS is not known yet.
BlackBerry interception timeline
In August 2011, the Indian government had asked ISPs and telcos to install indigenously developed monitoring equipment to increase internet surveillance.
In February 2012, RIM had also set up a server in Mumbai, India, to provide security agencies access to its BlackBerry Messenger services, after a long-drawn battle with the Indian authorities. Before this, the Ministry of Communications had mentioned in December 2011, that the Indian security agencies were able to access BlackBerry services through the interception and monitoring facilities provided by the telecom service provider.
In August 2012, reports had suggested that RIM has demonstrated an interception solution developed by a firm called Verint, which could intercept messages and emails exchanged between BlackBerry handsets.
In August 2012, BB had, however, denied the claims that the company has handed over encryption keys for its secure enterprise services to the Indian government. The company noted that it had instead offered a lawful access solution to the government which will help all telecom service providers in India to comply with the laws, but the solution doesn’t include secure BlackBerry enterprise communications.
In October 2012, DoT had directed all telecom service providers to ensure that proper infrastructure for legal interception of BlackBerry services was in place by December 31, 2012. Telcos had previously asked DoT to extend the deadline for compliance to February 2013, which was rejected by the department. While private telecom players like Vodafone, Airtel, among others have complied with the security requirements in the country, MTNL and BSNL had sought out more time to implement the infrastructure since it had to buy additional equipment to connect their network to the server and is currently going through a tendering process, as indicated by the report.
In February 2013, a government panel had recommended that BlackBerry should provide access to PIN details of all its handsets across the globe, in order to allow Indian Intelligence agencies in the country to track messages sent between Indian subscribers and Foreign subscribers.
In February 2013, BlackBerry users on the state owned telcos BSNL and MTNL were liable for disconnection, since both the telcos had not complied with DoT’s security requirements.