India to hack into Blackberry communications?

India seems to be taking a page from Sri Lanka’s own misguided notions of national security and telecommunications. Back in May I wrote about the contest between RIM and the Indian Home Ministry to gain access to the encrypted communications conducted via Blackberry’s.

Now there’s news that the Home Ministry may actually hack into RIM’s communications if it isn’t granted access. As Information Week reports,

An Indian government official said his country may use third-party tools to crack the encryption used by Research In Motion’s BlackBerrys if the company doesn’t open up its network. “If they fail to come up with any satisfactory solution, we will invoke other options. We have been approached by other companies with solutions to decrypt the data passed over the BlackBerry network,” said Telecom Minister A Raja during a presentation to the country’s Department of Telecommunications.

Several interesting points arise from this announcement.

RIM hasn’t commented on the possibility of its Blackberry encryption and security being compromised. Since the argument used by the Indian Home Ministry is based on the assumption that Blackberry’s are used by terrorists, RIM’s counter-argument that there are several other (encrypted) mobile e-mail systems, far more widely available that aren’t being targeted for data interception by the Home Ministry is an interesting one. I know of no other case where a government has openly called for third party tools to crack encrypted commercial communications. I guess one can applaud the Indian Government’s openness and just wonder how many other repressive regimes are doing the same thing covertly?

The Sri Lankan Government has also in the past openly called for hackers to disrupt what it perceives to be networks and websites partial to or run by terrorists. There have been allegations by independent web media of Orwellian government surveillence.

If both the Indian and Sri Lankan Government are hell bent on cracking down on Blackberry’s, either for their GPS capabilities or their “secure” communications, it would be pertinent to ask them, inter alia, just how they are addressing the fact that Gmail / Google Apps can now operate over most mobiles using SSL can be used to communicate in much the same way as Blackberry’s or the availability of services like drop.io that can be used to coordinate anything from a birthday party to something more sinister.

In Terrorists also use Google: So what? I end up noting that,

The general argument is that just because the terrorist use technology for their own parochial ends, it does not mean that the technology itself should be banned, or restricted to a wider population. We do not ban printing because the terrorists print their propaganda, and in Sri Lanka, we continue to consume State media in spite of the fact that they are obnoxious mouthpieces of any incumbent government (and in many occasions in the past, used to foment, exacerbate and otherwise promote State terrorism).

The media, not the medium is the problem and as I’ve stated in the past, the best way to address the appropriation of the interweb by miscreants and terrorists is to use the same technology against them and in defense of the principles of liberty, equality and democracy.

5 Comments on “India to hack into Blackberry communications?”

  1. Gunjan
    August 20, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    Very nice article. You have touched the issues perfectly.

    Law enforcement and intelligence in India needs good training. However, providing merely academic coaching would not serve the purpose. They need Techno-Legal training from experts like Mr. Praveen Dalal.

    Hats off to Mr. Praveen Dalal for his awareness drive. He is undoubtedly the best in the industry. It is unfortunate for the government of India and industry players that they are not in a position to avail his expert services. He has recently come up with the first Indian cyber forensics trends-2008 that is eye opener. I hope the government will now wake up to the realities. This is available at http://computerforensicsinindia.blogspot.com/2008/08/cyber-forensics-trends-in-india-2008.html

    Some recent interesting posts about him are:

    (a) http://legalnewsandviews.blogspot.com/2008/08/wireless-networks-and-law-enforcement.html

    (b) http://www.groundreport.com/Arts_and_Culture/Cyber-Forensics-in-India-Government-of-India-Must-

  2. Arya
    August 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Great article. Kindly send a copy to Indian Government.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Implications for advocacy against mobile phone and communications monitoring We know that the terrorists in Mumbai used Blackberry’s to communicate with home base and monitor news reports. Does this knowledge justify the Indian government’s threat to hack into Blackberry communications a few months before the atta…? [...]

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