The Threat of the Manchurian Micro Chip
Though the GOI has undertaken a good step in initiating
action on the setting up of a telecom security certification agency and has
reportedly asked Dr Balakrishnan, Director IISC to suggest a framework, given
the past record of some of the politicians in India and the enormous
commercial implications, it is not clear if the move to appoint the security
certification agency is only to delay the implementation of the ban on import
of Chinese equipments which is now in force.
It is possible that soon we may see an announcement that
since as suitable security certification agency would take up the
responsibility for clearance of security in due course, the order for banning
may be kept in suspension.
Such a move if any need to be resisted.
In this connection, it is necessary to take a cue from
the Australian Security Intelligence Agency and the actions taken by them.
Naavi.org has been frequently speaking about the
security risk in allowing Chinese IT equipments into India. Now a detailed
an informative article in Pioneer India
highlights how the politicians and bureacrats have in the past ignored the
It is to be noted that the article indicates that Rs
20000/- crores of hard earned Indian money has been invested in the cheap
Chinese mobiles which have now been blocked (hopefully) by the MSPs. In India
there was a service running to provide official IMEI numbers for existing
mobiles at a cost of around Rs 100. It is not clear if this service is a
backdoor move to lift blocking of the handsets. It is however not clear if
this blocking has been overcome by people using duplicate IMEIs of genuine
mobiles. While this may activate the otherwise blocked hand set, some time in
future, this would surface as another security risk when innocent persons
would find that their IMEI numbers are being used by several others also.
I would like the Government of India, DOT department to
conduct a search of IMEI numbers and their association with SIM numbers across
the country and identify if there are duplicate SIMs identified with same IMEI
numbers. Some of these may be genuine use where the handset owner substitutes
the SIM temporarily. However in such cases the usage cannot be concurrent
except in dual SIM mobiles. DOT should release the findings of such as study
to public so that we can understand if the order for Blocking of Chinese no-IMEI
number phones have been implemented or not.
The pioneer report also indicates how DOT allowed use of
Chinese telecom equipments outside border areas even after the risk of the
"Manchurian Micro Chip" was brought to their attention.
I would particularly draw the attention of the Indian
public to some action reported to have been taken up by the Australian
Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) who has officially ordered
investigations into Chinese telecom equipments installed in the Australia. We
in India need to do more than what ASIO has done because we are more
vulnerable to Chinese aggression and our exposure to Manchurian Micro Chip is
perhaps much more than Australia.
I therefore urge that not withstanding the appointment of
Dr Balakrishnan to suggest a security certification framework, Government of
India has to ensure that the present policy of "Ban on Import of Chinese
Equipments" should not be suspended.
More appropriately, the Indian Government should undertake
a security audit of all Chinese telecom equipments which are already in India
and gradually phase them out.
Also the telecom companies should be warned that if they
have installed any equipment with the consumers which has the capability of
remotely operated to reduce the value of the service to the user, it becomes
an offence under ITA 2008.