India eyes Google and Skype in security crackdown

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Research In Motion said in a Thursday statement that it maintains a consistent global standard for legal access to encrypted information which precludes making specific deals for specific countries.

All such access must be governed by a country’s laws and must be applied equally to all vendors and all technologies, RIM said.

It also reiterated that it cannot “unlock” secure corporate e-mails. “Contrary to any rumors, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers’ encryption keys,” it said.

The U.S. has technology to crack encrypted BlackBerry messages, which it can legally use when national security is at stake, diplomats say.

India is keen to get the U.S. to transfer technologies, like de-encryption, as part of high-level bilateral discussions on technology transfer likely to come up at Obama’s state visit to India in November, diplomats say.

For now, more humble devices may present a greater security threat than the BlackBerrys used by India’s business elite.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai attack, told an Indian court that he and his comrades all had Nokia mobile phones.

Photographs of court evidence show that the gunmen carried the most basic Nokia handsets.

“We did not find any Blackberrys,” Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who led the case against Kasab, said in an interview.

The relative anonymity and disposability of prepaid mobile phones and Web mail make them attractive to criminals, said Prasanto K. Roy, chief editor at CyberMedia Publications, a trade magazine group.

He said terrorists would likely opt to use disposable handsets and keep changing the SIM cards. Another hard-to-trace method would be to use Internet-based e-mail, like Gmail, updating and saving messages as drafts to avoid interception, he said.

RIM has fast expanded its presence in India from 114,000 users in early 2008 to an estimated 700,000 today _ four-fifths of whom are corporate clients, who would be hit by a ban, Roy said.

RIM won’t break out the number of users in India.

India has suffered deadly attacks, by both home grown and foreign militants, with some regularity for years. Many BlackBerry users here say national security trumps personal convenience.

“If BlackBerry cannot provide a solution for the security threat to the nation, we’re happy to let go of the services,” said Sharad Dhariwal, a 26-year-old investment banker.

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