x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

BlackBerry maker offers olive branch to India

Indian government offered interception tools for communications sent from handsets.

The smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) has reportedly offered the Indian government a technical solution to allow the interception of communications sent from its handsets. The move could lead to the country shelving its planned ban on BlackBerry services. A report in The Wall Street Journal cited minutes they had seen from a confidential meeting on July 26, are said to show RIM could provide New Delhi with interception tools.

According to the Indian government's summary of the meeting, RIM representatives said "they have a set-up to help the security agencies in tracking the messages in which security agencies are interested". RIM declined to comment on the reports. The company has faced demands for such a "set-up" from a number of governments, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Algeria. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said the ongoing discussions between the Government and RIM remained at a standstill. "The suspension will be on the same date [October 11], which we've already announced."

Previously, RIM said there was no way to provide the UAE Government - or any other - with access to encrypted messages sent from BlackBerry handsets. In a statement released last Thursday, the company said: "Contrary to any rumours, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers' encryption keys. "RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries."

Although the UAE's ban appears to be on track, co-operation between RIM and India's government may avert India's move against the BlackBerry, which is due to start on August 31. But Indian officials from its home ministry were not satisfied with those assurances. "India does not have the technical capability" to utilise such data to monitor BlackBerry messages, said the official, who requested anonymity.

After a lengthy meeting between the interior secretary and other intelligence officials, a spokesman for India's home ministry said on Thursday: "Our message to RIM … is that if they don't come up with a technical solution by 31 August, then the home ministry will take a view and will shut down BlackBerry Messenger and business enterprises services." The Indian government has been seeking access to secure communications sent from BlackBerry handsets, which it alleges were used by the perpetrators of the Mumbai bombings in 2008 because of their security features.

India is the world's second-largest market for smartphones. gregor.hunter@thenational.ae business@thenational.ae