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Blackberry Mobility Featured Article

October 04, 2010

India Rejects Limited Access to BlackBerry Due to Security Concerns

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Web Editor

India has rejected a proposal by Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry (News - Alert) smartphone, to allow government authorities limited access to corporate e-mail used by its customers, according to a report from the Guardian newspaper.

Indian security agencies have been unable to access communications sent via corporate e-mails and on the device's BlackBerry Messenger service.

RIM, which has approximately 800,000 customers in India, appeared to yield to government demands by allowing access to the messenger service at the beginning of September, while talks about access to the high-security corporate e-mail service continued.

India’s government said it would test the feasibility of RIM's concessions during October and November, according to the Guardian.

RIM told the Indian telecommunications ministry that it cannot – for technical reasons – hand authorities a key to access encrypted e-mails, India's telecoms ministry said in an internal note obtained by the Economic Times of India.

RIM uses 256-bit encryption on messages and data sent between its servers and devices. It is thought that it could not give the Indian government unfettered access to some devices, because that would imply supplying the codes which could unlock any message, the Guardian said.

India, along with several other countries, has expressed concern that BlackBerry services could be used to stir political or social instability. It threatened RIM with a ban if it were denied access to data, the Indian newspaper reported.

It appears that the latest offer from RIM does not give the Indian government sufficient access to quell terror threats because of the level of encryption, the Guardian reported.

The United Arab Emirates has threatened to suspend BlackBerry Messenger, and web browser services starting Oct. 11, unless the government gets access to encrypted messages, the newspaper reported. The Guardian further reported that Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Lebanon are also reviewing the future of BlackBerry services in their countries, all citing security fears over the level of encryption employed by RIM.

India is the second largest mobile phone market in the world, behind China. There will be more than 600,000 BlackBerry sales in India this year and India's smartphone market will have reached approximately 12 million – a figure forecast to grow to 40 million by the end of 2015, according to Informa (News - Alert) Telecoms & Media.

Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet's InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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