Move comes on the heels of a fresh attempt to break the impasse between the government and RIM.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may ask Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of BlackBerry, to set up a server in India as it has agreed in Saudi Arabia to help intercept the data on its phones.
The move comes on the heels of a fresh attempt to break the impasse between the government and RIM, under which the company has offered to provide the “metadata” to security agencies, according to PTI.
Says a top DoT official: “The discussions are still going on but the Ministry of Home Affairs is not fully satisfied with the solution provided by RIM, and we might ask the company to set up a server in India to meet the security needs.”
According to news agencies, RIM representatives have agreed they can provide the metadata, which, for a text document, may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.
However, the sources said RIM, which has nearly one million subscribers in India, failed to enthuse the security agencies who want an uninterrupted access to the messaging services on the BlackBerry platform.
The Indian government had earlier asked RIM to set up a server in India for full interception of data through BlackBerry. However, it is not clear whether even this would satisfy the home ministry, which is looking for access to the software code of the servers through which they can decrypt data.
RIM had earlier said it would provide the IP address of the enterprise server, located in the customer’s premise, as well as the PIN and the IMEI number of each BlackBerry mobile phone used by a subscriber to enable security agencies access the data in a readable format.
However, it also made it clear it did not have a 'master key' which would allow a third party to gain access to data. They said the security architecture of the BlackBerry is such that not even RIM or any third party can encrypt the information.
An IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) number is a unique 15-digit number for the phone which helps in identification and location of the user. Each BlackBerry device also has a PIN (personal identification number), which allows identification of BlackBerry and ensures the mail destined for a particular individual is delivered correctly, besides allowing PIN to PIN messaging.
In a meeting with DoT, the company executives said the only way for security agencies to obtain the decrypted data is at the email server located in the customers’ premises. RIM puts a server in the premises of a company which promises to pick up a large number of BlackBerry connections for its employees. This is done so that the data or email of the employees is secure within the company. BlackBerry made it clear it did not have a key, as it is generated automatically
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications and state-run telecom PSUs Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd are among the operators who offer Blackberry services to their mobile subscribers. It is estimated that there are about 500,000-600,000 BlackBerry users across the country. Two years ago, similar concerns were raised against BlackBerry services but then DoT had said all the issues were resolved.
The Saudi Arabia government seems to have come up with a solution, where BlackBerry has agreed to set up a server within the country. However, the UAE has already banned the service, saying it does not meet its security concerns. Even the Indian government had earlier warned the company to offer the interception solution or services would be stopped completely.