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Risk

9/24/2008
11:33 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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India's Government Claims BlackBerry Crypto Crack

After months of wrangling with Research In Motion to hand over its crypto keys, the country now claims to have attained the ability to snoop on some RIM users in that country.

After months of wrangling with Research In Motion to hand over its crypto keys, the country now claims to have attained the ability to snoop on some RIM users in that country.The Economic Times is reporting that the government in India, specifically its Department of Telecommunication (DoT), Intelligence Bureau and security agency National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) have managed to run successful tests on the telecommunication networks of major service providers in that country to capture and decrypt both BlackBerry phones, and messages sent from BlackBerry devices to other devices.

From the story:

Initially, there were difficulties in cracking the same on Vodafone-Essar network but that has also been solved. This means that the e-mail messages sent on Internet through your BlackBerry sets would no longer be exclusive and government would be able to track them.

"Decompression is being tested in operator's network with three successful testing on Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communication and BPL Mobile," a source in DoT said. He, however, added that the solution reached upon would not be shared with anybody including the national telecom service providers like BSNL or MTNL. "The test is being conducted wholly for nonenterprise solutions," he said. The Union cabinet has also been apprised of the recent developments by the DoT.

I find it interesting that the government is making the distinction between enterprise and consumer devices. Perhaps the government hasn't been able to breach the AES or Triple DES encryption available to BlackBerry. Now, couple that with the news that the Indian government is asking its telecommunication providers to alter their networks to make eavesdropping easier:

The DoT may ask any service provider to make few technical changes to bring compatibility for the decompression that would enable the agencies to decode information for the data transfer to other forms like data to voice, data to video or data to text.

This rather unusual public pronouncement comes months after the Indian government demanded that RIM hand its keys over.

It's tough to tell, based on these news reports, what the government has been able to precisely achieve. But I find the claim that they've managed to break RIM's encryption scheme dubious at best.

 

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