Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blackberry, security, spying, Snowden and Bharat Sarkar

Here is a post on something other than food.

The provocation for this post was a newspaper report that the Chinese technology company Lenovo was planning to buy Blackberry and that President Obama has a Blackberry and that the US Government officials have some 500,000 official Blackberry devices. Have a look at this article. Keep this in mind when reading the rest of this post.

Research in Motion [RIM], a Canadian company, developed a proprietary mobile handset and bundled this with extremely secure software. This system enabled emails and the proprietary messaging system BBM to be exchanged between subscribers. Initially, this was primarily targeted at enterprises [companies] who as subscribers could give their employees Blackberry mobile phones and thereby the all emails and BBM messages would be impossible to hack into. Companies world over took on the Blackberry system. So, for instance, all employees at Citibank [obviously those who met internal criteria] got a Blackberry phone. They could exchange emails and BBM messages with their colleagues knowing that no outsider could get access to this. You now understand why US Government officials have the 500,000 Blackberry devices. As a closed group they were assured total security.

The robust security offered by RIM also extended to BBM messages that began to be widely used even by non-enterprise Blackberry subscribers. Therefore if you, me, Bebo, Lolo, Duggu, Chimpu, Chintu, Dhaboo, Chichi and Piggy Chops sent BBM’s to each other, our Bharat Sarkar could not intercept them i.e. the BBM’s. Naturally Bharat Sarkar was upset as not only all of us but BBM’s exchanged by `aatank vaadis’ and `deshdrohis’ could not be intercepted by Bharat Sarkar.

On realisation of this stunning fact, Bharat Sarkar caught RIM by the short and curlies and told RIM that RIM should provide Bharat Sarkar with the necessary software to enable Bharat Sarkar to intercept these BBM’s. I believe RIM has complied. RIM faced similar demands from other Sarkars, and, I believe has complied.

So, dear readers, the point I am making is that whoever controls RIM also has access to secret data. Obviously, there must be some safeguards by which the US Government is confident that the Canadian Government will not snoop on the US Government data. But, I am sure you get my point. 

Another point, rather interesting, is, why should our own Bharat Sarkar not make a bid to buy RIM? We have the money after all; it would be a mere drop considering the buckets being poured down beautiful schemes like AADHAR and the Food Security shenanigans. We could spy on the whole world and all the filthy capitalist corporates and `aatank vaadis’ and `deshdrohis’ without breaking a sweat. Nandan Nilekani would be the right man with the correct credentials to become CEO with, of course, additional charge of the AADHAR.

Now let us slightly turn our angle of attack, while remaining on the same general topic.  

You must have read about Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning [who ironically has now changed sex and name to Chelsea Elisabeth Manning]. Basically, collectively, they have demonstrated how the US and British Governments effectively spied on all and sundry. It has been revealed that Google, Skype, You Tube, Apple and Yahoo had provided a direct linkage or pipe to the US Government so that the US Government could access live information, photos, video chats and data from social networks directly through the companies’ servers. Edward Snowden has also made public a 41 slide PowerPoint presentation that was used to train the snoopers.  You can see the four key slides here.

Apparently not only did the spying cover the Internet, but, the British Government also tapped the phones of the delegates at a G20 conference. I can only summarise that consequent to this tapping, all conversations between delegates and their colleagues back home would have been known to the British team thereby giving the British Team a significant upper hand in the negotiations.
I express no opinion on this `controversy' but, only state facts. Also, you would be extremely naive to not realise that everything on the Internet is capable of being snooped into. So, if the US and UK government did so, you could be outraged, but not surprised. I am sure Bharat Sarkar spies on us too.

Now, a few months ago I was having some difficulty getting my AADHAR number. I had done the entire fingerprinting etc. but, my number was simply not being generated. I then decided, after several pointless phone calls to the help lines, to contact some `higher ups’. I looked at the contacts on the UIDAI website and I was shocked to find that several seemingly powerful UIDAI officers had Gmail, Hotmail and Rediffmail ids. Just today, while writing this I looked again. And this is Gods truth; this is what I found as listed in the Chariman's and separately in the Director Generals office:

Mr Anand Jain PS to Chairman phone number 011- 23752669 and email anand.aadhar@gmail.com

Mr Navin Kumar PS to DG [presumably Personal Secretary to the Director General] phone number 011-23752675 and email nvinindguidai@gmail.com

Mr. Ram Roshan PSO [no idea what that is] phone number 011-23466804 and email ramroshan59@gmail.com

If you live in Mumbai, you could communicate with Mr A L Mishra, Senior Accounts Officer on alm1961@rediffmail.com.  

Look at the `Contact us' section. You will see, across the board, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail ids are being used. Does anyone have any concept of security? Does anyone have any fucking clue as to what they are doing? Mind you, this is Bharat Sarkars premiere endeavour. A blank canvas was given to them, thousands of crores of Rupees were at their disposal, the great Nandan Nilekani, co-founder at Infosys was the man in charge, and, no one could be arsed to set up a secure email system. Nandan Nilekani has the rank of a Cabinet Minister. His PS Anand Jain has the delightful email id anand.aadhar@gmail.comBoggles the mind, does it not? 

Would you be surprised if any of this information is being piped directly to the US or UK? I can well imagine Mr Navin Kumar PS to DG sending emails say asking for tenders and quotations for computer hardware required for the project costing hundreds of crores, all going directly to the US. Then, this info being passed to IBM. Microsoft and HP to give an effective quotation?  How about similar emails being sent by the technical IT and Procurement Division of UIDAI. Why, Mr Vivek Nangia Assistant Director General in the IT and Procurement Division of UIDAI communicates on viv_nangia@yahoo.com!! Brilliant!! And this gentleman works in the IT and Procurement Division of UIDAI, surely he would know better. Obviously not.    

Please think of all the thousands of bureaucrats, `babus’, Governors, `Mantriji’s’, PA’s, PSO’s and MP’s et al are floating in India. How many of them would have secure email ids? Why is there simply no robust secure official government email system? Why is our Government not mandating that all persons of `X’ grade/designation [fix whatever criteria you want] should use only the secure system?

Does anyone, really anyone, give a shit?


  1. It's about time that somebody other than wild eyed long haired jhola carrying activists (meaning people like me, of course) aren't the only voices in the wilderness to make a noise about the flagrant disregard for security implicit in the use of free email IDs for official work, the lack of a reliable and full featured email service for government, and the amazing cavalier reaction to Manning, Snowden and the collapse of the internet as

    1. ...the internet as a safe global communication platform.

  2. Thank you. Right is right and wrong is wrong, regardless of long hair or jhola!

  3. Actually, most govt departments do have their own "secure" mail ids - nic network. Although, how "secure" it really is, I really don't know. Not much, probably