RIM Wont Disclose Terms of Deal with India

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-30 Print this article Print


So even if the Indian government gains access to those users' e-mail messages, it won't be able to read the messages. And while PGP isn't yet available for the iPhone, it's a pretty sure bet that if the demand surfaces, it will appear soon enough. 

Of course, the Indian government may also decide to ban PGP and other encryption algorithms. But will that really work? Just think of all of those programmers in India already doing work for U.S. firms. I don't think that, given the talent pool, somebody somewhere won't think of a way to secure their messages. What's more important is that the Indian government won't be able to do anything about it. 

In fact, a heavy hand on the part of the government, coupled with a deep pool of good programmers, only ensures one outcome-a means of using secure messaging will emerge that the Indian government can't detect and can't crack. If India is really worried about security, there are better ways to go about it. 

But, meanwhile, there's another question. What, exactly, did RIM agree to? Obviously the company isn't saying, and it's equally obvious that the government isn't either. One of the secrets to signals monitoring is to make sure that the person or thing being monitored doesn't know for sure whether you're doing it, and if you are, how you're going about it. 

Perhaps this is the real success in India's misguided effort to monitor its citizens' communications at will. Not that they can actually monitor anything, but they can induce people to believe they are being monitored, and in the process not use their devices for communications that they care about being monitored. Sounds convoluted, I know, but this is how governments sometimes think. Just as is the case here in Washington, it's not the reality that matters so much as the perception of reality. 

But if India really intends to hang its security on banning BlackBerrys, then it's an effort doomed to failure. Even if all BlackBerry devices were to disappear tomorrow, the means of secure communications exist on every other smartphone, every Web page and every phone call. There's nothing India can do to prevent it, and by forcing the issue, there's every reason to believe that the government will simply force those who actually do want to keep secrets from the government into new, more creative and harder to detect ways of doing so. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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