Denies it colluded in bid to protect phone sales
Troubled phone maker RIM has angrily denied claims that it has handed over its corporate email and messaging encryption keys to the Indian government. According to India’s Economic Times, which cites an unnamed telecom department insider and internal documents, the Canadian manufacturer finally caved into pressure from the government by providing a means of access. It says RIM recently demonstrated a solution developed by a firm called Verint that allows interception of messages and emails exchanged between BlackBerry handsets, making them readable to Indian security agencies. RIM’s encrypted BlackBerry services have long been prized by companies but the government has countered they could equally be used to organise civil uprisings or even allow militants to carry out attacks.
In January this year RIM did agree to give India access to its consumer services, including messaging, in response to security concerns.
But it refused to allow monitoring of its enterprise email and texting service, claiming it could not do so anyway as the encryption keys remained in the control of corporate clients.
According to the Economic Times these technical issues have now been overcome with RIM’s help.
India is one of RIM’s few growing markets but its robust encryption technology is opposed by the nation’s security authorities, as it is in the Middle East.
In Indonesia last year it also blocked its browsers from accessing porn sites following government pressure.
But RIM, whose share price has collapsed by more than half in the past 12 months, has strongly refuted the latest rumours that it is now colluding with the Indian government so that smartphone sales aren’t jeopardised.
A spokesman said that while it was providing the nation’s telecom operators with “lawful access” to the BlackBerry traffic of ordinary users, as did other phone operators, it did not extend that access to enterprise communications.
BlackBerry enterprise clients, mainly corporate users and government agencies, are given encryption keys peculiar to individual accounts with data scrambled at source and then rebuilt at the receiving end.