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RIM Questions India's BlackBerry Encryption Worries

While there are only about 115,000 registered users with RIM devices in India, it's a market that's rapidly growing.
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion told the Indian government Monday that lowering the encryption level of its smartphones' services will not solve the country's security concerns because there are other companies offering similar systems.

Indian officials had put pressure on RIM to provide security agencies with a way around its encryption. They demanded either a "master key" into data and e-mails sent from the company's BlackBerry devices or that RIM set up servers that could be monitored by Indian security agencies.

Officials in New Delhi said they were concerned that because these e-mails couldn't be intercepted, militants could be using BlackBerry services to coordinate terrorist attacks.

But during a presentation to India's Department of Telecommunications, RIM pointed to four other mobile e-mail systems in the country -- Windows Mobile ActiveSync, Nokia Intellisync, Motorola's Good, and Seven Networks -- that utilize similar encryption.

Because these other services are widely available, RIM contends that the government would have to also take actions against those companies instead of singling out RIM.

Data on RIM's network utilizes the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. The Department of Telecommunications has said it wants RIM to reduce this to a 40-bit encryption.

RIM has refused this request, as its strong security is one of the company's major selling points for customers. While there are only about 115,000 users with RIM devices in India, it's a market that's rapidly growing.

Additionally, the company asserts that its security system is designed so that a third party, or RIM itself, cannot access the data being transmitted wirelessly.

"Governments have a wide range of resources and methodologies to satisfy national security and law enforcement needs without compromising commercial security requirements," the company said in a letter to the Department of Telecommunications.

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