x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

India gives BlackBerry until end of this month

BlackBerry services will be closed down in India unless Research In Motion addresses national security concerns.

BlackBerry services will be closed down in India at the end of this month unless Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of the device, addresses national security concerns. The Indian government has given RIM until August 31 to address India's security issues, a senior interior ministry official told Reuters. "Some services of BlackBerry will be shut down if they fail to comply with the order," an Indian government official said.

The ultimatum came after a meeting between Indian intelligence officials and executives from BSNL and MTNL, the state-owned telecommunications operators. Executives from RIM held a separate meeting with Indian interior ministry officials. India has requested access to BlackBerry messages because it believes the encrypted devices can easily be used by terrorists and criminals seeking a mode of clandestine communication.

Matthew Reed, a senior research analyst with Informa Telecoms and Media, said a decision to block BlackBerry services in India would serve as a benchmark case that would change the thinking of security authorities globally. Analysts believe if India blocks BlackBerry services, the ban will strengthen the hand of other nations, such as the UAE, seeking access to encrypted messages sent using the device.

"Whatever happens in India would be significant because India is such an increasingly important player in the world's economic and political fields," Mr Reed said. BlackBerry services have been under scrutiny over the past month after south Asian and Middle East countries, including the UAE, asked to monitor messages, citing national security, social and judicial concerns. The UAE has said a decision to suspend BlackBerry services on October 11 was "final" unless a solution that complied with national law was identified, accepted and applied.

A ban on BlackBerry's instant messaging service was averted in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as RIM agreed to install a server in the kingdom to monitor it. Lebanon and Algeria have also requested access to BlackBerry messages. There are about 700,000 BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia and another 500,000 subscribers in the UAE. There are an estimated 1 million BlackBerry users in India. @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae