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BlackBerry saga: Indian carriers get 15-day notice

25 Mar

India’s BlackBerry saga continues as the Department of Telecommunications has given carriers offering BlackBerry services an ultimatum of 15 days to either make it possible for the government to monitor e-mails sent through Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry devices or stop offering the services. According to a wire service report, a directive has been sent to these carriers to work out with RIM to provide foolproof security measures in the country. There are over 400,000 BlackBerry subscribers in the country. It is still unclear when the 15-day deadline ends.


No BlackBerry ban, but what next?

15 Mar

he Indian government finally seems to have made peace with BlackBerry for the moment but the game has just begun. “There is no question of banning at this point. We are in discussion with the various stakeholders to resolve the issue,” said Telecom Secretary, Siddhartha Behura. 

What next? The government may twist the arms of the carriers to pressurise Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind BlackBerry, to yield to their demands. It seems very unlikely that RIM would lower the encryption levels to 40 bits, which would enable security agencies to intercept e-mails sent via a BlackBerry subscriber. However, it might allow carriers to save mirror copies of these e-mails on their servers that are based in India. 

But the bigger question is whether RIM is being singled out by the government? Carriers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Tata Indicom offer their own push e-mail solutions. CDMA operator, Tata Indicom, for instance, makes the following claims for its Remo mail solution: “The connection between the mail server and the proxy server is supported by 128 bit SSL encryption. No storage of mails anywhere in the system for security of data.” 

Vodafone also offers Vodafone Mail to its subscribers who are not on BlackBerry. The company’s official website claims that all information sent and received is delivered using 128 bit end to end AES encryption and the whole message (not just the body text) is encrypted.

How do intelligence agencies intercept these e-mails?

You’ve got mail on BlackBerry? The govt wants to know…

13 Mar

Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry e-mail solution, are finding themselves in an unusual situation. The Indian government wants it to stop offering its BlackBerry service in the country after security agencies complained about their inability to track encrypted e-mails sent via BlackBerry.

Considering the concerns related to national security, the government had issued notices to carriers, who were providing BlackBerry services on their networks, to stop the services by December 31, 2007. The date was later extended to March 31, 2008.

At the moment Airtel, Vodafone, BPL Mobile and Reliance Communications offer BlackBerry services to some 400,000 subscribers in India. The controversy came under the spotlight again when Tata Indicom was denied clearance to offer BlackBerry on its network.

However, officials in the Department of Telecom (DoT) are optimistic that a ‘favourable solution’ is likely. “Unlike other e-mail messages, mails sent through BlackBerry are unable to be monitored as they are sent in an encryption format through the wireless network in data packets. It is only through the client, using the decryption key, that the mails can be scanned. The discussion is on with the company on this issue. However, a favourable solution is likely to come soon,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

In all probability, the DoT is likely to ask RIM to share the decryption key with the security agencies. But by doing so, the axe can then fall over Internet Service Providers, who can be forced to lower their encryption procedures in the wake of ‘national security’.

DoT officials have convened an internal meeting today to discuss the issue. Another meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow that would also include carriers and officials from RIM.

DoT to allocate spectrum on TRAI model

27 Dec

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is likely to allocate additional spectrum to cellular carriers based on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) model of spectrum allocation. The government and carriers have been on loggerheads for over two months now during which a lobby of carriers has dragged the government to court.

“The process will take some time till the government comes out with the final decision on it. However, it is likely there could be some changes on the final guidelines compared to the original recommendations filed by TRAI,” informs a TRAI official. 

Initially, a TRAI report had recommended the government to hike the subscriber-linked additional spectrum allocation by four to six times the existing number. However, the government had consulted the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), which suggested the figures to be hiked by eight to 12 times, which sparked off a retaliation by the carriers, who claimed that they were unable to provide quality service to the ever-increasing subscriber base on the initial spectrum.

Creating docs in WiMo 6.0

2 Jul
Now that there are a handful of devices running on Windows Mobile 6.0, users would have come to know that the new OS is nowhere close to what Microsoft had promised. Clicking on the cross button doesn’t stop the application as it should have been and you can’t create new documents on the Standard edition (Smartphone edition in Windows Mobile 5.0 terminology). The only noticeable newbies that we could figure out were the improved user interface and the ability to handle HTML in Outlook.
We couldn’t understand why Microsoft would enable users to edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets in the Standard edition but not let them create new files. Probably to not to cannibalise devices based on the Professional edition? Who knows? Anyways, a friend has found a DIY to tackle this problem.
He created a blank document on his desktop and saved it on his handset. Now whenever he wants to create a new document he opens the blank document and selects the edit option. It is as good as a blank document at your disposal and you can rename and save it to create new files. We can’t imagine that Microsoft didn’t think about it or thought about it and yet didn’t give the ‘create new’ option. 
Moral of the story: Microsoft can only limit the offerings on its services but can’t stop people from innovating.