Security concerns associated with BlackBerry services have come to the fore in India again, raising the possibility of a fresh standoff between the Canadian service provider and the government, reports the Times of India. The government plans to give BlackBerry maker Research in Motion fifteen days to ensure that its e-mail and other data services comply with "formats that can be read by security and intelligence agencies" after intelligence services recently raised a red flag against the handset, said department of telecom officials familiar with the matter. Senior officials of key security agencies in a recent meeting argued that the continuation of BlackBerry services in the present format presents a danger to the country, said people who were part of the discussions. The meet was chaired by home secretary GK Pillai and attended by representatives of the home ministry, DoT, intelligence agencies and the National Technical Research Organisation. The latest development indicates that security agencies are finding it difficult to intercept messages sent through BlackBerry phones, which use codes with a 256-bit encryption.
DoT officials said Skype would also be given a fifteen-day deadline to ensure that calls carried by it to and from India are in formats that could be intercepted by law enforcement agencies here. Security agencies fear that internet-based telephony servies like Skype are being misused by terrorists to bypass monitoring systems linked to mobile phone services. The security meet also decided to ban or block BlackBerry and Skype services in India, if these companies failed to adhere to the fifteen-day timeline that ends in July, the paper's sources said. The government has also decided to ask Google to ensure that encryption for its Gmail services in India is in formats that can be monitored by Indian agencies. While Google has not been given a timeframe, the telecommunication ministry, IB and NTRO, in a note to the Parliamentary Committee looking into security concerns, said the company must comply with the new rules. The security meet also added that the telecommunication department and intelligence agencies will summon both Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications to check if the internet services offered by them to their data card customers can be lawfully monitored by security agencies. Demonstrations showed that encryption used by these data card services is at levels that cannot be monitored, so these companies will also have to change their security settings. The government has also asked the information technology ministry to amend existing rules to mandate foreign service providers offering any form of communication services to do so only on formats and platforms that can be tracked. Formal communications to RIM, Google, Skype, Tatas and RCom are likely to be sent in the first week of July.
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