Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Research In Motion (RIM) has confirmed reports that it has set up a dedicated server in India to allow the government to monitor its network.
The update, which was sent out to customers in the country and passed over to The Next Web, follows local media reports which carried comment from government officials indicating that the Canadian firm had introduced a server in Mumbai. The move sees RIM finally cede to the government, which has been pushing it over the issue since 2010 on the grounds of national security.
In the update, the company reveals that it fulfilled the request last month:
RIM reported to the India Government that RIM had delivered a solution, as required, to enable India’s wireless carriers to address their lawful access requirements for consumer messaging services, which include BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) email.
However, RIM says that the server does not compromise the notoriously tight security of its services:
Our response to India’s requirements remains fully consistent with RIM’s published Lawful Access Principles and, as set out in those Principles, no changes can or will be made to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server customers.
Indian officials were reported to be content to leave the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) system free from being monitored, instead concentrating on its consumer services. RIM has confirmed this and revealed that BES is so secure, that even that it is even unable to access the data sent by its enterprise customers:
Put simply, RIM cannot access, or provide access to information encrypted through BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) given that neither RIM nor the wireless operators are ever in possession of the encryption keys.
Finally, RIM says it is “encouraged” to hear that the authorities have approved its server following an inspection:
It is encouraging that comments attributed to government officials suggest satisfaction with our solution and acknowledgment that BES software is a secure VPN communication technology that resides in the custody of corporate customers, operating behind the corporate firewalls of those customers.
With the company going on reports rather than direct confirmation, it seems that there has been no update the dialogue between the government and RIM on the server as yet. It is said that the server is currently awaiting permission for direct linkage for lawful interception, which will allow authorities to monitor its content, and we expect RIM will hear back from the government when the green light is given.
This issue has been ongoing for sometime and it may surprise some to see that RIM has finally relented on the issue. While it has done so to a point, the omission of BES from monitoring is hugely significant and it shows just how important keeping business customers secure and content is for RIM.
Arguably, a request to open consumer services — such as its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chat service — to monitoring for security purposes is reasonable, and it is likely that the concession on BES finally made this happen.
Not resting on their laurels, Indian officials are looking for Nokia to follow suit and set up a local server to grant them access to its Nokia Push messaging service. On a similar note, new reports claim it is even looking to see email providers open their servers to be monitored in real time.
RIM and Nokia are anything but the only tech firms to be troubled in India. Facebook, Google and other Internet services have come under pressure to screen and censor local content to prevent unsuitable material being published in India’s Web space.
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