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India May Turn Security Attention to Skype and Google

India is apparently considering taking a bigger role in online security and demanding access to online communications: the leader of an Indian ISP association said yesterday that Indian telecommunications regulators have openly discussed requiring online services besides BlackBerry to provide the Indian government access to users communications. On regulators’ lists: VoIP operator Skype and Internet giant Google, along with other services.

Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, said regulators discussed requiring access to communications on services other than BlackBerry at a meeting he attended roughly a month ago. Other reports indicate Indian authorities have been examining messaging services provided by the likes of Skype and Google for over a year.

The Indian government has not yet made any statement on banning or requiring access to anything other than RIM’s BlackBerry service.

Yesterday India announced an August 31 deadline for shutting down BlackBerry services in the country, saying the services’ encrypted communications systems provide a mechanism for militants and terrorists to plan and carry out attacks. Under Indian law, ISPs can be required to give Indian law enforcement access to communications on their networks, including encryption keys necessary to decrypt communications. BlackBerry services use a paired encryption system that has no back door for RIM to decrypt messages without the key known only to the user; it also locates its services in the UK and North America, making the process of acquiring user communications difficult. RIM recently reached a compromise with Saudi Arabia that apparently involved installing BlackBerry servers within its borders.

RIM has not yet publicly commented on India’s looming ban on BlackBerry services, but reports have BlackBerry representatives meeting with Indian government officials and expressing optimism a ban can be avoided.

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