(Repeats story issued late on Friday)
* 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 such
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
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 firm.
"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 Reuters.
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
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
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