iPhone comes under the security scanner

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on June 06, 2011



After Blackberry and Nokia, an application running on iPhone has come under the security scanner. The Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the Department of Telecom to disallow mobile operators from offering a specific application that destructs messages after it is read by the user.

Called Tiger Text, this application allows users to send messages, text and video, without leaving any trail. Once a sender selects the message lifespan (from 1 minute up to 30 days), expired messages not only delete from both phones, but are not stored on any server and they cannot be retrieved. The sender can also choose other options that do not exist with other texting technology such as deleting the history of the conversation or making a text message “Delete on Read,” meaning the message will disappear 60 seconds after the recipient opens the message.

An article in Time magazine in February 2010 had said that this application could be an ideal tool for philanderers. Indian security agencies are worried that this application will be used by spies and anti-social elements to communicate without being detected.

“This application will be operational through a server located in US. The use of this service by Indian service providers may create problems to law enforcement agencies (LEA) in their operational activities. DoT has been requested that instructions may be issued to all service providers that before launch of this service, proper arrangements for interception and monitoring is set with prior approval of LEAs,” a top Government source told Business Line.

Security agencies had recently told telecom operators to keep records of all calls and data transmitted through their network for a period of five years. They had also expressed concerns about 3G video calls and instant messaging services offered by the likes of Google and Blackberry.

Senior DoT officials said that the MHA's latest request is being looked into from the licensing point of view. The DoT's problem is that it cannot directly ask application service providers to offer interception as they do not come under the purview of Indian laws. The other option is to ask telecom companies but they are not prepared to bear the costs associated. The Government had earlier appointed a committee to look into the issue of intercepting and monitoring data transmitted through highly encrypted systems. However, representatives of the MHA and the Intelligence Bureau refused to sign the report. The entire matter may now be referred to the Committee of Secretaries to find a solution.

Published on June 06, 2011

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