Reuters | Sep 1, 2010 | 7:07pm IST
India on Wednesday launched a clampdown on major Internet communications firms, including Google and Skype, and began accessing some BlackBerry traffic in a campaign driven by security fears. Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said notices were being sent to Google and Skype asking them to set up servers in India and allow access to web data that officials fear could be misused by militants. Several other countries, most of them in the Middle East, have raised concerns that the BlackBerry might be used to aid terrorism or peddle pornography. But India could be the first to act against firms such as BlackBerry maker RIM, setting a precedent that could hurt companies with a reputation built on system security. Such moves could also impact the shape of India’s mobile phone market, the world’s fastest-growing, and possibly hand gains to Apple Inc and Nokia, BlackBerry’s two biggest smartphone rivals in India.
Pillai’s comments come after a weeks-long standoff between India and BlackBerry over a workable way for the government to monitor its data. India has said it wants the means to fully track and read BlackBerry communications. RIM won a reprieve this week after the government said the smartphone company had offered some solutions to access data which it was studying. India’s Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said RIM had begun giving India access to its secure data from Wednesday. "Discussions for technical solutions for further access are continuing and the matter will be reviewed within 60 days," Chidambaram said in a statement. A Google spokeswoman based in India said: "We have not received any communication on this issue from the government. If and when we do, we will review and respond."
BBC News | Aug 27, 2010 10:34pm IST
Research In Motion, its global growth and its secure-email niche challenged by both rivals and governments, is preparing for a long fight it may yet lose on a shifting battlefield. The Canadian company’s BlackBerry smartphone was once a byword for safe corporate communication. But its North American market share has shrunk as some core clients loosen security specifications to let employees use alternatives like Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system. And RIM’s new BlackBerry Torch touchscreen phone, a possible rival to the iPhone, has met a muted reception. In a parallel challenge, India and other countries are seeking enhanced access to BlackBerry emails and instant messages. "Apple and Android have changed the world RIM created," said Ian Grant, the head of telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group. "But they’re actually expanding the universe more than they are cannibalizing it."
RIM launched the Torch amid unusual fanfare this month as it sought to reinvigorate its image with consumers amid a shrinking divide between devices for business and pleasure. But the high-profile launch failed to drum up even a hint of the excitement generated by Apple launches and no one lined up for hours at a flagship store — RIM doesn’t even have one. The Torch, which combines the familiar RIM keyboard with the sexier touchscreen and an updated operating system, may be a slow-burn device that catches up with competitors rather than overtaking them, but it’s not an Apple-style revolution. In its efforts to catch up, RIM has purchased an application storefront company called Cellmania to grow its revamped BlackBerry App World, whose 9,000-odd offerings are eclipsed by Apple’s 200,000-plus third-party applications.
Cellmania, bought for an undisclosed price, will give RIM a way to track downloaded content and let users have charges included in regular phone bills. Its clients include AT&T, which has exclusive U.S. rights to the Torch, Australia’s Telstra and Spain’s Telefonica. RIM has also claimed the web domain http://www.blackpad.com, in what industry-watchers speculate is a preparatory move toward launching a tablet computer of the same name this year — perhaps a secure, business-friendly rival to the iPad.
Last month, India tightened rules for telecom gear imports, saying vendors must allow inspection of their equipment and share design and source codes in escrow accounts. Separately, an application by Reliance Communications, India’s second-biggest mobile operator, to order equipment from ZTE has also been approved, another source said. The Indian government’s move to bar the Chinese firms had hit their growth in a booming market that is the world’s fastest-growing by subscribers and is getting ready for rollout of 3G and broadband networks. ZTE’s second-quarter profit fell below market expectations after the Indian restrictions.Continue reading
BBC News | 17 August 2010 | 10:32 GMT
India has sent formal notices to the country’s mobile operators telling them they must have equipment to monitor Blackberry services by 31 August. The move will increase pressure on Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) to allow Indian security agencies access to encrypted messages. Tata Teleservices told BBC News that the letter said it must “ensure that Legal Intervention (LI) capability is put in place” by the end of the month. RIM said it grants “lawful” access. A spokesperson for Tata Teleservices said: “As a Tata Group company, we have always abided by the law of the land and will do so here too”. Other operators have confirmed that they received a similar request.
The government has said it will shut down Blackberry services if the firm does not meet its demands to give access to its encrypted messenger and e-mail services by 31 August. In statement released on 12 August, the government said that other Blackberry services, including voice and SMS traffic, were already “available to law enforcement agencies”. India, along with many other countries, believes the device and the Blackberry infrastructure are a threat to national security. Blackberry handsets automatically scramble messages and send them to servers in Canada and other countries. Authorities have said they want access to these messages and the keys to decrypt them to counter terrorism and criminal activity. The row in India is the latest in a long-running dispute between RIM and international governments. The United Arab Emirates was the first country to propose a block on the devices, followed by a raft of others including Lebanon, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A ban that was supposed to come into force on 6 August in Saudi Arabia has been postponed whilst the government holds talks with RIM. Continue reading
Bloomberg | Aug 14, 2010 | 1:45 AM GMT+0530
Research In Motion Ltd. is seeking to reassure Wall Street customers about the security of its BlackBerry e-mail service as countries including Saudi Arabia and India press for more access to its network, said two people familiar with the situation. RIM has held at least one conference call in the past week with clients including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to discuss BlackBerry operations. At least one corporate customer has told RIM it’s not satisfied with the explanations so far and is seeking an additional meeting. The talks underscore the challenges for Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM as it expands in emerging markets as growth in North America slows. Sales outside North America rose to 37 percent of RIM’s $15 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year, up from 23 percent in the fiscal year ended February, 2005. Corporate customers such as Wall Street banks favor RIM’s BlackBerry because its encryption and other safeguards protect communications from prying eyes. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India have pushed for more access to BlackBerry services, out of concern the smartphone could be used to coordinate terrorist attacks or violate national mores.
Loopholes in System
Saudi authorities decided this week to allow the BlackBerry messaging service to continue in the country, after threatening a ban. RIM and the kingdom’s wireless operators are making progress in implementing a system to allow monitoring of user data, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency said, citing the country’s telecommunications regulator. Such reports have prompted questions from corporate customers about whether RIM is making concessions on the security of its software, said one of the people familiar with the conference call. RIM fell 77 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $53.40 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Since the U.A.E. said on Aug. 1 that it plans to suspend BlackBerry service, the shares have lost 7.2 percent. Continue reading
Yahoo News | PTI | Sat, Aug 14 2010 | 11:42 AM
The State Department officials have also been in touch with these countries to understand their security concerns. The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last week had termed the security concerns of these countries as legitimate. “We are taking time to consult and analyse the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern, but there’s also a legitimate right of free use and access. So, I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go forward,” Clinton said.