RIM’s backdoor sniffed by BBM-snooping Indian spooks
Research In Motion is finally set to offer the Indian authorities a permanent system for access to its consumer-focused messaging services with the installation of new Mumbai-based servers.
The Times of India was given a government briefing on the matter. It claimed that the servers have been inspected by government officials and that permission would shortly be granted by the BlackBerry maker for lawful interception of messages if the intelligence agencies there suspect terrorist or other serious illegal activity is being conducted via the platform.
The news comes a few months after a Wall Street Journal report claimed that a monitoring facility had already opened in Mumbai to deal with any requests from the authorities. The Reg is still waiting to hear back from RIM on whether the two stories are linked.
It is also believed that RIM was co-operating with the authorities before this on ad hoc requests to access any email or BBM messages sent over its consumer service.
The Indian reports also claim that the government has backed down on its demands to gain access to BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) messages. RIM rightly always maintained that it couldn’t provide access to content running on its corporate service because it didn’t hold the encryption keys – they reside with the sponsoring organisation or business.
Intelligence Bureau director Nehchal Sandhu admitted to the paper that such corporate communications were not of “high concern” anyway from a security standpoint.
However, RIM has reportedly reached an agreement with the government which effectively pushes responsibility for providing access to BES communications down to the service provider level.
The report said that the government would be tapping up mobile operators like Vodafone, Airtel and RCom for a list of the approximately 5,000 BES servers in the country and their locations.
However, while the deal will enable RIM to comply with local laws while washing its hands of the tricky BES problem, it remains unclear how the network operators will be any more able to provide access to BES – given that the encryption keys remain in the hands of their customers.
It’s not all about RIM, of course. The report revealed that the Nokia Push Mail service would be targeted next by the Department of Telecommunications.
Other online communications giants including Yahoo!, Google and Skype are also thought to be in dialogue with the authorities over providing more local services which can be brought under the same strict guidelines. ®