DoT proposes Rs 540 crore for hi-tech snooping

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by RAM, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. RAM

    RAM The southern Man Senior Member

    Jul 15, 2009
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    NEW DELHI: India is finally poised to get a centralized surveillance and interception system across all communication platforms to effectively address national security concerns. The department of telecommunications has now prepared a detailed proposal for such a facility for the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

    This is the government's delayed response to the nation's urgent requirement for hi-tech surveillance and technological interventions after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai in 2008. According to the note, dated October 28, the proposed facility is estimated to cost Rs 540 crore, of which Rs 450 crore will come through government funding.

    TOI was the first to report on the development in August 2009. DoT intends to launch a pilot project three months from the date of approval of the CCEA and implement the scheme fully by June 31, 2013.

    The centralized monitoring system (CMS) will cover a research lab and a centralized national hub with regional monitoring centres at each one of the licence areas in the country. It will include development activities for the lawful interception, monitoring, analysis and detection of grey market telecom operations by DoT's telecom enforcement, research & monitoring (TERM) cells.

    The plan is to put together a world class surveillance system with the latest intelligence techniques and biometric devices, along with enhanced capabilities in crypto analysis, voice recognition, grid surveillance, encryption and decryption, mining of data bases etc.

    During the Mumbai attacks, terrorists used international phone lines to stay in touch with their instructors and handlers. Later, the government and security agencies had to rely on surveillance information from foreign governments and service providers to gather meaningful intelligence.

    The present system of phone tapping is managed by individual operators and is activated once an authorized warrant is issued by law enforcement agencies. However, with roughly 260 mobile licences (12 to 13 in each of the 22 telecom circles), about 20 operational ILD operators and over 100 internet service providers (ISPs), the decentralization of surveillance makes the system far less effective than it should be.

    Leakage of information is the biggest challenge at present, as company executives, even though security cleared, are required to handle warrants for phone tapping across many states, cities and services, and leaks are possible at any of these stages.

    Upgrading individual systems to the latest technology platform is not always possible as there can be gaps between the various communication technologies used by consumers and terrorists alike and the law enforcement agency's ability to intercept and monitor such traffic. New versions of VoIP traffic are one such source of worry for security agencies, not just in India but around the world.

    Lastly, there is the issue of turnaround time as even a minor delay in monitoring a target can lead to failure in preventing a terror attack.

    However, while a centralized government-controlled system does appear to be the best solution, its main challenge will be to keep up with rapidly changing technology, especially given the government's long-drawn tendering system for equipment and software updates. The fact that it has taken two years after 26/11 to get to a proposal stage is a telling testimonial of its inherent weaknesses.

    Read more: DoT proposes Rs 540 crore for hi-tech snooping - The Times of India

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