* Home secretary hopes for automated access from Jan. 1
* No solution on accessing corporate emails, but talks on
* RIM repeats it cannot provide access to corporate data
(Adds RIM statement, background)
By Bappa Majumdar
NEW DELHI, Oct 1 The maker of the BlackBerry
smartphone has granted India's government manual access to its
Messenger service and has promised automated access by Jan. 1,
enabling authorities to track such messages in real time, the
country's top interior ministry official said on Friday.
India, one of the world's fastest growing mobile telephone
markets, also wants access to encrypted email traffic sent via
Research In Motion's enterprise servers. The BlackBerry maker
says its system is designed so that only the sponsoring
business or organization has the technical capability to grant
India, among several countries to express concerns
BlackBerry services could be used to stir political or social
instability, has threatened RIM RIM.TO with a ban if denied
access to the data.
RIM RIMM.O won a 60-day reprieve from India at the end of
August after offering India a solution to monitor some
BlackBerry data, a claim yet to be confirmed by the Canadian
"We have manual access to the Messenger service. We want
automated access and we are hopeful of getting it from January
1," G.K. Pillai, India's home (interior) secretary, told
At the moment, security agencies are getting manual
printouts of chat messages within four to five hours of placing
their requirements with RIM, a home ministry source said,
adding that once it gets automated access, it could track chat
messages on a real-time basis.
For a Q+A on BlackBerry technology, click [ID:nN12132220]
RIM later said it was in constructive discussions with the
Indian government and "remains optimistic that a positive
outcome can be achieved," but reasserted it will not alter the
security architecture of its corporate offering.
RIM averted a ban on Messenger in Saudi Arabia in August
after agreeing to hand over user codes that would let Saudi
authorities monitor the messaging service, a consumer product
that operates outside of the secure corporate domain.
But analysts see no easy fix to the standoff over email as
RIM says it has no way of intercepting the data that countries
want to access. RIM has denied media reports that it provides
unique wireless services or access to any one country.
Encryption is pervasive on the Internet to allow
confidential transmission of personal and corporate
information, but RIM is an obvious target as its BlackBerry
mobile devices are ubiquitous.
Data traffic on handsets from rivals such as Apple Inc
(AAPL.O) and Nokia NOK1V.HE can be more easily intercepted
via the network carrier. A carrier is unable to access RIM's
enterprise data in a readable form due to the company's
end-to-end encryption managed via centralized data centers.
Talking broadly about the security concerns, RIM's co-CEO
Jim Balsillie told Reuters last week that one possible solution
is for a country to establish a national registry to collect
all encryption keys held by corporate entities but warned of
the ill-effects that might engender.
"Blunt instruments don't give you the answers you need,"
Balsillie said. "It's a complex world for security. And it's a
powerful world in terms of commercial advancement."
The United Arab Emirates has threatened to suspend
BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services from Oct.
11 unless the government gets access to encrypted messages.
A top Abu Dhabi official said on Sept. 26 they were "very
optimistic" about reaching an agreement with RIM before the
The Obama administration is preparing legislation that
could force RIM to intercept and unscramble encrypted
communication, according to a report in the New York Times.
As part of its broader electronic security crackdown, the
Indian government also plans to send notices to Google (GOOG.O)
and Skype to set up servers in India and allow full monitoring
of communication, government officials have said.
(Additional reporting by Devidutta Tripathy in NEW DELHI and
Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Surojit Gupta and Hans