Thursday, March 17, 2011

India Must Deal With Encryption Immediately

India has never been comfortable with encryption technology and its uses. Even on the front of legal framework, India has no effective and practical law on encryption. For reasons best known to Indian government, encryption is a feared technology in India.

Government of India in general and intelligence and security agencies in particular are trying their level best to curb use of encryption in India. Till now there are no clear and definite encryption standards in India and encryption norms and regulation in India are still missing.

Recently India reiterated its stern stand that companies offering encrypted communication services will have to allow monitoring of such services by security agencies if they want to operate in the country. Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai categorically declared that only those who allow access would be allowed to operate in India and none else.

Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) although provided e-surveillance access to its messenger services yet it categorically denied its capability to provide real time access to its enterprise services. Indian government tried to pressurise Blackberry by ordering the telecom service providers to drop services of Blackberry if the later keeps on using encrypted services in India.

However, Blackberry stick to its stand amidst great uncertainty of its future in India. Now the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has finally listed Google's Gmail and email services running on BlackBerry among 15 communication services that cannot be monitored.

DoT declaration leaves the only possible option for intelligence agencies to develop cyber capabilities that can empower them to monitor and intercept these encrypted communications. It seems intelligence agencies and Indian government has finally learned the bitter truth that e-surveillance cannot be a substitute for cyber skill and capabilities.

Now DoT has shown its inability to decrypt communications in real time and in plain text, the ball is in Home Ministry’s court. Let us wait and watch how Home Ministry of India would react to this situation.