In the latest roundup to previous conflicting signals about whether the ubiquitious BlackBerry service will be banned in India or not, the Indian government has thrown down the gauntlet and indicated that while the use of the BlackBerry Smartphone is fine, its inherent ability to send encrypted e-mail is not.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) has asked BlackBerry service providers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, BPL and Reliance Communications to specify a time frame by which they will resolve all security concerns associated with this service. At the same time, the DoT reiterated that the government is not looking at banning BlackBerry services, but was keen to resolve the issue at the earliest.
According to other incoming reports, it appears that Indian security agencies want RIM to give them access to algorithms needed to decrypt messages. The Economic Times reported that another option the DoT is also looking at is “asking RIM to migrate all data traffic originating from Indian mobile networks to servers in India.” There were rumors of a 15 day deadline to resolve the “security issue,” though all the players offering the BlackBerry service in India say that they have received no official news of any such directives.
In my earlier post, I questioned the point of banning RIM’s BlackBerry when competing technologies, such as Microsoft’s Direct Push, already allows for SSL encryption of data. Looking at it from another angle though, you can probably attribute the India government’s brazen request to the fact that unlike Microsoft’s implementation, RIM’s BlackBerry service requires special provisioning on the Telco end.
It is unclear if any of the proposed “solutions” above will eventually be enforced or how will they affect roaming BlackBerry users in India. I am not sure if this entire fiasco gets you thinking more about the value of encryption. If so, fellow blogger Chad Perrin has written an insightful piece on the importance of being encrypted over at TechRepublic’s Security blog that you will probably want to check out.