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Launch 3G services only if they can be monitored: Home Ministry
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The Intelligence Bureau wants all mobile phone companies to demonstrate that third generation (3G) services can be monitored, intercepted and blocked before they begin offering high-end service on this platform.

Indian mobile phone firms are slated to offer 3G services early next year and the government has committed to handing over the requisite airwaves to winners in the recently concluded auction process by September. The demand by IB is likely to delay the rollout of 3G, which involves services such as video conferencing on mobiles, high speed internet and interactive gaming.

Security agencies including the IB has warned that they currently cannot monitor services such as internet telephony offered by companies such as Skype, chat offered by Google Talk and even video calls, if customers avail these on their mobile handsets after the launch of 3G. Put simply, Indian intelligence agencies do not possess the capabilities to monitor any high-speed internet applications that 3G will offer to mobile customers.

Currently, monitoring mechanisms are in place for similar services if offered using 2G mobile telecom services. All mobile services in the country offered by private operators are done using 2G airwaves.

Just last week, acting on orders from security agencies, the telecoms department had directed state-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL to provide lawful interception mechanisms for all 3G voice and data services on their networks within 15 days.

"Till a solution is arrived in this regard, all telecom service providers may kindly be directed not to provide 3G services, particularly in J&K," adds the home ministry’s latest communication to the telecoms department.

In a related development, the home ministry has also convened a meeting with all telecom operators offering BlackBerry services on Thursday address security concerns associated with encrypted data sent on such devices. The home ministry has repeatedly warned BlackBerry maker- Canada’s Research In Motion (RIM) - that services on these handsets that cannot be monitored will be shut down.
But a compromise solution offered by RIM last month, which would allow security agencies to track emails without sharing encryption details, is currently being tested by the IB. If these tests allow interception of services, a standoff will be averted. While India has demanded that RIM share encryption keys to track all BlackBerry services, the Canadian company last week expressed its inability, saying even it could not read encrypted information.

The Intelligence Bureau had recently asked the telecom department to stop Nokia’s popular messaging services in India until they can monitored, another sign of the growing discomfort of the country’s spooks with similar offerings they view as suspect from a security angle.

As part of a compromise solution offered to the government last week, the Canadian firm offered a way out for security agencies to track corporate email without sharing encryption details. It told the telecom department that it would provide user details on BlackBerry enterprise servers located at corporate premises that store emails in decrypted form and said security agencies could approach the companies and retrieve the information.

The BlackBerry maker also said it would work with mobile phone firms to open up access to all consumer emails within 15 days, adding that it would be developing tools in six to eight months to allow monitoring of its popular Blackberry Messenger chat service. But the security agencies see this as only partly addressing their concerns as key services like business email would still remain indecipherable due to strong encryption. The Intelligence Bureau is testing "decompression solutions" offered by BlackBerry to help it track messaging and e-mail services.
ET
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