Thursday, August 12, 2010

India joins the bandwagon to ban RIM

India has joined the bandwagon to ban Research In Motion’s Blackberry Smartphone unless it gives the key to decode encrypted email and messages. In fact India issued an ultimatum today that if they don’t get the code by end of Aug, they will ban RIM Blackberry phone. The BlackBerry-to-Blackberry messenger and the BES, which provides corporate intra-email services are the ones that India wants the key to decrypt. Other services provided by Blackberry like Voice, SMS and BIS already comply with the law enforcement agency. Unlike other Smartphone vendors, RIM operates its own network of servers to provide corporate email and messaging. The high security provided for Corporate email is one of the reasons why RIM is corporate’s favorite Smartphone. Will they give-up that to please Indian Government? Looks like they may succumb to the pressure as they did with Saudi Arabia government.

According to RIM, the security architecture for its enterprise customers is based on a symmetric key system where in the key is generated and owned by the customer. So their argument is that it can’t be provided since users own the key. However, based on pressure from Saudi Arabia, they did agree to handover the codes in a last-ditch effort to stop getting banned. So Indian officials are hopeful they will do the same thing with them. With the recent terror attacks and the new threat looming every now and then, Law enforcement agency are very serious about intercepting these communication devices.

For RIM, this is going to be a very critical decision to make. Any compromise could jeopardize its appeal to corporate users and politicians alike. We all know U.S President Barack Obama’s favorite gadget is Blackberry. So any changes in their security strategy would have bigger impact. Saying no to these countries would limit its ambition to grow beyond North America. In addition, competitors are eating into RIM’s dominant share of Smartphone. Some of the corporate users are embracing iPhone, which was introduced as a cool gadget for kids.

I personally feel RIM should give access to their encrypted message if Indian authorities feel that they have legitimate information about threats. Iam assuming the messages will not be intercepted for all Users and it will be on case by case basis based on user’s background. How users will be picked for interception is beyond my imagination. Last time i got lot of hate mails when i said its OK to intercept any communication as long as it is done in the interest of the country. I don't approve privacy intrusion, but at the same time if its abused by some folks then it needs to be addressed.

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