Security agencies plan banning the mobile phone services in sensitive ministries, departments after Internet breach
After Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), it's the turn of BlackBerry mobile phone services in the country to face opposition from intelligence agencies.
The proposal to ban the use of BlackBerry services was mooted after hackers tried to get into the system.
The service was very popular among top officials of some sensitive government departments. During random checks it was revealed that officers at the Prime Minister's Office and other ministries like Defence, Home and External Affairs have linked their official email addresses to their BlackBerry devices.
Speaking on the issue, a senior officer from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), wishing anonymity, called it a big security goof-up. "There is a secure Internet network for ministers and officials working in sensitive departments. But it's difficult to put up similar security parameters in BlackBerry and other such devices like VoIP," he said.
Though several senior officers in some sensitive ministries and government departments were found availing BlackBerry services, what shocked the intelligence agencies most was that it was being used within the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). "It has happened even after security and intelligence agencies had issued warnings. In fact, there is a clear ban on using mobile phones with cameras and recording facilities within the premises of South Block and North Block," said the officer.
As per security guidelines, officers posted in these departments have to submit details of their mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. Outsiders and visitors on the other hand are not allowed to carry any kind of electronic gadget beyond the security post at the entrance of the PMO premises.
But security and intelligence agencies never realised hackers could easily attack the unprotected systems being used by top officials from within.
As per sources, no breach of Internet security was noticed in the PMO as the highest office in the country has a separate and highly protected net system.
But the identity of the hackers heightened the threat as their destination was discovered in Chinese cities and towns. "Unlike Pakistani hackers, the Chinese are far more competent and they hardly leave any trace. The possibility of other hacker groups lurking into out system also can not be denied," said an MoD official, wishing anonymity.
Meanwhile, sources also revealed intelligence agencies have asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecom (DoT) to review the situation and prescribe stricter security measures.