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Why Government of India is slamming so hard on Blackberry, 3G and other mobile services?

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The tough attitude of Indian Government over Blackberry, 3G and other mobile services has left many people wondering over the probable reasons of such actions. Why is the Govt. cracking down suddenly on service providers companies over IMEI numbers, Unverified Sim cards, 3G and Blackberry messenger? The answer to the question is simple – perceived threat to national security.

Lax attitude and non compliance on part of the service providers has forced the Govt. to take strict measures and to fill the loopholes in monitoring of the modern means of communication.

blackberry-ban

Here is a detailed overview of the prevailing situation:-

1. Blackberry messenger service

Recently there has been a tussle between the RIM (Research In Motion) and the Government of India over messaging services of Blackberry. In the licensing terms and conditions it has been laid down by the Government that the service provider is responsible to put in mechanism to allow security agencies to gain access and intercept any message/conversation of any subscriber whenever required. But ‘Blackberry messenger’ service is a violation of this clause.

The messages are encrypted and can only be decoded by computers or softwares which have the key to the specific encryption used. The government had demanded access to these encrypted messages but RIM’s officials expressed their inability to share such data due to technical reasons.

The messaging services of the Blackberry mobile phones will be adversely affected if RIM does not provide satisfactory response. However, Voice and email services will go uninterrupted.

2. Handsets without IMEI Number

Government of India had asked all the service providers to stop giving services to customers using handsets without a genuine IMEI Number last year. (To know what is IMEI Number Click here). A special Equipment ID register (EIR) was set up which ensures that calls from Invalid ID numbers do not pass through. But a study by Department of Telecom reveals that every fifth call of certain operators is made by a handset without an IMEI number!

The companies are actually lifting this screen (EIR) and allowing such calls. The non-compliance levels are high as ever! Mobiles without IMEI are detrimental to national security as Intelligence agencies find it hard to trace targets which do not have valid handsets. Multiple Handsets with same IMEI number make it even tougher to reach the real culprit.

3. Unverified Sim cards

While issuing a Sim card the service providers are supposed to have record of identity of the owner supported by proper documents. Unverified Sim cards (the ones without proper documentation) prove to be a headache for investigation and enforcement agencies. Anti social elements use such cards to carry out their morbid plans since it becomes quite easy for them to escape the scanner of the intelligence agencies.

It is a very surprising revelation by the Government that there are more than 30 Lakh unverified Sim cards in Jammu and Kashmir alone! This large number coupled with handsets without IMEI number could be a catastrophic combination if brought into use by terrorists.

4. 3G Services and tapping technology

Government is all set to exercise absolute control over 3G services, which is still struggling to gain full momentum in India. The government has ask the service providers to put 3G on hold till tapping technology for the data exchanged by 3G handsets is in place! This has lead to many furrowed brows since government attitude does not find many supporters. Subscribers were eagerly waiting for 3G but unexpected delays seem to be unending.

But government’s concern seems to be justified considering the fact that troublemakers in Jammu and Kashmir circulate streaming videos and clips to instigate the youth and prompt them for violent protests.

  1. […] government permission. In case of BlackBerry, the level of encryption is much higher and complex, surpassing the security guideline norms and […]

  2. […] on matters pertaining to access of data from biggies like Nokia, RIM, Apple and others. They made a big hue & cry about it earlier last year, but everything went silent and no action was taken after threatening […]

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  4. Viral says

    Hello Nikita,

    Nice post ! :) And, congrats for your 1st article @trakin. its much better than what I had managed, during my first stinct some 5 months ago.

    Actually, just wanted to point out over here, that BlackBerry has been pulled up by the government not just for its highly-popular Messenger services (as per your mention), but also for its Corporate/Enterprise email services.

    In fact, neither the government nor any of the 9 carrier networks piggybacking the BlackBerry service in their networks are technically capable of decrypting the Enterprise emails.

    Currently, the encryption level of up to 40-bit key length is allowed without prior government permission. In case of BlackBerry, the level of encryption is much higher and complex, surpassing the security guideline norms and standards.

    Thanks !

    1. Nikita says

      Sorry Viral for late reply. Thanks a lot for the piece of information. It was enlightening! :)

      1. Viral says

        Ah.. Didn’t expect such a late reply. But, as they say, “Better late than never.” :)

  5. Elhos Peter says

    my gratitude towards you is beyond measure, for simplifying hard nut to crack words.

    1. Nikita says

      Thanks a million! :-)

  6. Nikita says

    Hello Madhav,
    Thanks for the warm welcome. Strict actions by Govt. were being criticized everywhere. I thought it was necessary to explain that its not an arbitrary or fanciful attitude of the Govt. but it is in the interest of public safety and well being.

  7. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Hi Nikita,

    I guess this is your first post. Welcome to Trak.

    This is an important topic and thanks for explaining it well. Without proper explanation it seemed like the Indian Govt. was making mountain out of mole hill. This particularly was reflecting on India what with a global giant like Blackberry being involved and the news getting headlines. May be many countries don’t have the illegal handset problem as India, or they don’t see it as much of an issue. Better to think about national security over short term bad press.

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