Report: BlackBerry hands over PIN to Indian govt

Report: BlackBerry hands over PIN to Indian govt

Summary: Canadian phonemaker is reported to have handed over PIN details of BlackBerry handsets in India, but the government will need unique identification numbers of the phones to monitor messages between users in the country and abroad.


The Indian government reportedly has received the PIN details of BlackBerry handsets shipped to the country, and may ask for similar data of every BlackBerry handset worldwide to allow it to monitor messages between users in the country and abroad.

Panel also recommends Indian government to ask for PIN details of BlackBerry users worldwide to track incoming and outgoing messages between users in India and those abroad.

Citing a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) report dated December 31, Times of India reported on Thursday that BlackBerry had given the Indian government the PIN details of all the BlackBerry handsets shipped to the country. However, the unique identification numbers of BlackBerry phones in other countries were excluded "due to privacy and legal provisions", it said.

Each BlackBerry handset comes with a unique PIN that cannot be changed and is tied to the phone. Users can use the PIN to add others into BlackBerry Messenger.

According to the Times of India, the DoT panel had recommended that the government also ask for the PIN details of BlackBerry users across the "entire world" to track incoming and outgoing messages between users in India and others abroad.

When queried at the BlackBerry Z10 launch in Singapore on Thursday, Hastings Singh, the company's managing director for South Asia, said he was not able to comment on the specifics of the Indian report regarding PIN details. However, he said BlackBerry will "always be 100 percent compliant" with each market's law and regulations.

In an e-mail statement to ZDNet Asia Friday, a BlackBerry spokesperson said: "BlackBerry continues to enjoy excellent relations with the Indian government and our carriers, and we have worked closely with these partners to ensure ongoing lawful access compliance, consistent with our published Lawful Access Principles. It is not our company policy to comment on unconfirmed reports."

The Times of India report added that on December 10, BlackBerry had demonstrated interception facilities which it built to address India's security concerns. The panel also said India must take over monitoring facilities built by BlackBerry.

For the past years, the Canadian phonemaker has been pressured by the Indian government to enable the monitoring of communication between BlackBerry devices as its encryption was deemed "too secure". The company finally relented and built BlackBerry servers in Mumbai in 2011.

Last November, the Indian government ordered local operators to enable the monitoring of BlackBerry services before December 31 or face having the services shut.

Topics: Security, Government Asia, Privacy, BlackBerry, Smartphones, India

Liau Yun Qing

About Liau Yun Qing

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate masquerading as a group-buying addict.

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  • And...?

    What will happen after the PINs are handed over? How big a problem is that for Blackberry users? Does it include Corporate BES users?
  • BES still encrypted

    Corporate BES Emails are still encrypted and next to "impossible" to crack, as the encryption keys are only available on the BES server and handheld, they use an AES encryption algorithm a step up from the triple DES.

    BB Messenger is a "lot" easier to crack and has been described as more scrambling a message then encrypting it.

    Cant wait to test the BB10 platform and Fusion server with AES encryption.
    • AES is symmetric

      I don't think AES can be used for public key crypto.
      So most probably *not* AES but an assymetric crypto relying on difficulty of factoring primary numbers.
  • ZD Net goign down the spiral

    Wow, you really have absolutely no idea what you are talking about do you? You have no idea how blackberries work do you? And why are you reporting three month old 'news'?

    - Matt Hazz
  • Many BlackBerry devices in India don't come from Indian carriers

    I manage a BES in India with over 500 users aboard. A huge number of those devices have leaked into the market from North American, European and even Australian carriers.
    And so what if you know the PINs for each side of a transaction? The content is encrypted anyway...good luck accessing that in time for it to be meaningfully used.
    Leigh Bentley