Panel slams roping in of private firm for Net snooping

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on November 14, 2017


Recommends solution developed by Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

An inter-ministerial panel has slammed the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) for roping in a private company for setting the Internet monitoring system.

The Committee has raised serious security concerns on the tie up as the private company was selling similar solutions to other customers in the global market, thus not exclusive to India.

“This is a matter of concern as the strength/weakness of Internet Monitoring Probe is exposed to the entire world, thus adversaries to bypass these probes,” the committee said in its report.

The panel has suggested picking the solution developed by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) since it was developed indigenously. “The committee observed that CAIR is a fully indigenous designed and developed solution involving Government scientists and personnel and no component of solution has been outsourced to an outside agency,” the report said.

“On the other hand, NTRO claims to have designed the system that has admittedly been developed through Paladion, a private company. This raises serious security concerns for an extremely sensitive solution like this,” it added.

Development through outsourcing also raises doubts about the capabilities of NTRO in independent handling of the solution during its operation and maintenance as well as future upgradation without the involvement of the private partner, the report said.

NTRO solution

The panel said it was not happy with NTRO's solution either. “during demonstration the software system crashed frequently,” it said.

In comparison, CAIR demonstrated the solution with full confidence and answer all technical queries of the members in a convincing manner. The committee also discussed the issue with Intelligence Bureau and R&AW who will be the primary users of the monitoring system. The representative of R&AW was also not happy with the NTRO solution, while, on the other hand, IB was satisfied with the solution of CAIR.

“The committee observed that CAIR has been continuously making R&D efforts since inception for keeping pace with the fast changing Web technologies. However, NTRO has not made any R&D efforts after the induction of their system in 2008. The committee also observed that while CAIR could demonstrate all its claims, NTRO was not able to demonstrate all the claims made by it,” the report stated.

NTRO has refuted the committee's observations through a letter on January 20. It told the panel that its system cannot be sold to anyone else without permission. But the panel rejected this on grounds that there was no mention of any such restriction on the private company. The panel also sought more information from NTRO by end of that month “which have not been submitted till date.”

Monitoring system

The security agencies are looking to build a system that can monitor Internet traffic on a real time basis. The trigger is the rapidly escalating threat posed by terrorist and criminal elements using data communication, which has brought into focus services offered by the likes of BlackBerry, Skype and Gmail. The solution developed by CAIR is called NETRA which has been developed by 40 scientists.


Published on March 09, 2012

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