RIM says it can't give India keys to secure e-mails

Repeating its position, BlackBerry maker says it's not possible to give the Indian government the keys to monitor e-mail on its BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

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 yesterday reiterated that it's unable to provide the Indian government with the means to access secure e-mails on its enterprise network, despite a looming deadline.

Robert Crow, Research In Motion's vice president for Industry, Government and University, repeated the company's familiar position. Speaking to reporters yesterday in New Delhi, Crow said that RIM does not have the ability to turn over the keys to the encrypted data flowing over its BlackBerry Enterprise Server because those keys are held by its corporate customers.

Despite promises to India that it would offer a permanent solution by January 31, Crow said that "there is no possibility of us providing any kind of a solution. There is no solution, there are no keys to be handed," according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, RIM had given Indian officials the ability to monitor its consumer messaging services, which include BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS) e-mail. But that access does not extend to the company's Enterprise Server, which it sees as a type of secure virtual private network (VPN) for its business customers.

RIM has been facing challenges by India as well as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, all of whom have been demanding access to its secure customer data for national security reasons. The nations see such access as a necessary tool in their fight against terrorists and have all at one time threatened bans against the BlackBerry service unless RIM complies.

The company narrowly averted a ban on BlackBerry services in India in October by offering an interim solution and promising a permanent one by January 31. Last year, RIM faced potential bans from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but it was able to work out agreements with those two nations that allowed its services to continue. Though RIM hasn't revealed how it averted those bans, some reports say the company was able to work around the issue by setting up local BlackBerry servers.

Crow said that the overall problem extends beyond just the BlackBerry network.

This is not an issue unique to BlackBerry. BlackBerry represents a very small fraction of the total population of VPN in India," he said, according to the AFP news service.

India has also been after Google and Skype to allow access to their services as well, asking them to install local servers for the purpose of monitoring e-mail and messaging.

Crow has been meeting with Indian officials from security agencies and the country's ministry to discuss the issue and said that further meetings are planned during his current visit, Reuters reported.