RIM gives India access to network, but not secure e-mails

The BlackBerry maker has given the Indian government the means to access its Messenger network but without the capability to actually monitor secure customer e-mails.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

RIM has granted India access to its BlackBerry network, but not the ability to monitor secure customer e-mails.

The BlackBerry maker confirmed today that the Indian government now has the means to access its Messenger service.

"RIM has now delivered a solution that enables India's wireless carriers to address their lawful access requirements for our consumer messaging services, which includes BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS) e-mail," Research In Motion said in a statement released today and e-mailed to CNET.

But RIM insisted that the access does not include the ability to monitor e-mails on its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which it sees as a secure virtual private network (VPN) solution for corporate customers. The company also maintained its position that the e-mails on BES are encrypted and that it has no means to unencrypt that data.

"This enablement of lawful access does not extend to BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which is essentially an enterprise VPN solution," said RIM in its statement. "...No changes can be made to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server customers since, 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."

RIM has been under pressure to satisfy the Indian government's demand for access to the BlackBerry network. The company averted a ban on BlackBerry services in October by providing an interim solution to the country and promising a permanent solution by the end of January.

However, RIM's latest effort still seems a bit unclear to Indian officials, at least so far. Today, a senior interior ministry official said that the government still hadn't seen the new solution provided by RIM and therefore the country hasn't yet changed its position on access to corporate e-mail, according to Reuters.

"I cannot respond without seeing their reply to the government of India," the ministry official, U.K. Bansal, told Reuters.

RIM has faced demands from a variety of countries requesting the ability to monitor BlackBerry e-mails in the name of national security. The company has had to walk a difficult tightrope, trying to avert bans of its service but at the same time not acquiescing to the demands for outright access to its customers' secure data.