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31 Oct, 2013 02:20

Avoiding NSA clutches: India to launch internal email policy for govt comms

Avoiding NSA clutches: India to launch internal email policy for govt comms

India is on the verge of implementing an internal email policy for official communications in order to avoid using American-based web services that have been compromised by the National Security Agency.

In December, India will unveil a new internal policy devised to avoid major email service providers - such as Gmail, Yahoo! or Outlook.com - that house their servers in the United States.

A communications official confirmed Tuesday that the plan is near implementation, The Times of India reported.

"Email policy of the government of India, as this policy will be called, is almost ready and we are taking views from other ministries on this. Our effort will be to operationalize it by mid- or end-December," Department of Electronics and Information Technology Sec. J Satyanarayana said at a Delhi summit.

All services will be provided by India's own National Informatics Centre (NIC).

India’s plan was first announced in August, after revelations supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA collected over six billion pieces of information from India’s computer and telephone networks in just one month.

In addition, according to Snowden documents first reported by The Hindu, the NSA bugged computers and telephones at India’s United Nations office and embassy in Washington DC, likely exposing vast amounts of computer storage, internet traffic, emails, telephone, and office conversations.

"It is imperative in view of the security concerns that exist in other countries,'' India’s communications and IT minister, Kapil Sibal, said in August. He added that all official emails will be encrypted.

Disgruntled world

India, reportedly the fifth most spied-on country by the NSA, is not alone in seeking internet avenues around the NSA’s clutches, as further details trickle out regarding NSA spying on foreign leaders.

Germany’s largest telecom provider, Deutsche Telekom, is looking to introduce a “national routing” service which would keep German internet traffic out of the hands of foreign spies.

The former state-owned communications giant outlined the plans in a secret meeting at the Economy Ministry, business weekly Wirtschaftswoche reported weeks ago.

Currently, email data is exchanged between users worldwide via international internet exchange points - physical structures through which internet service providers (ISPs) exchange internet traffic between their networks.

India is also teaming up with other BRICS nations and companies within the countries to produce NSA-proof telecommunications architecture.

In particular, Brazil has been reported to be building a "BRICS cable" that will create an independent link between Brazil, South Africa, India, China, and Russia, in order to bypass NSA cables and avoid spying.

The cable is set to go from the Brazilian town of Fortaleza to the Russian town of Vladivostok via Cape Town, Chennai, and Shantou.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (Reuters / Mike Segar)

The length of the fiber-optic cable will be almost 35,000 kilometers, making it one of the most ambitious underwater telecom projects ever attempted.

Meanwhile, 21 countries - including US allies France and Mexico - have now joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.

The resolution was proposed earlier this week by Germany and Brazil, whose leaders have been some of the most vocal critics of the comprehensive spying methods of the NSA.

It appears to have gained additional traction after the Guardian newspaper published an internal NSA memo sourced from Snowden on Friday, which revealed that at least 35 heads of state had their phones tapped by American intelligence officials.

One of those is likely German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier this week, the White House failed to deny that her personal cell phone had been tapped in the past, though it claims that it no longer listens to Merkel’s private conversations.

Other countries involved in the talks reportedly include Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Paraguay, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

In addition to wary governments, private telecom providers and businesses are increasingly compelled to move or reinforce web operations following NSA disclosures.

Some have interests in Russia, like Malaysia-based finance advisory firm Najadi & Partners, which recently registered its servers using the .ru domain.

Snowden’s leaks showed that neither .com nor European internet domains can be trusted if you want your data to be private and safe, president of Najadi & Partners, Pascal Najadi, told RT.

Najadi said that the decision to have his company’s servers moved to Moscow was driven by “logic” and “common sense,” with no direct business interest. Once Snowden’s files revealed the scale of the American and allied agencies’ data snooping, the company “decided to act accordingly.”

Other companies consider Iceland to be a safe place. An example is the encrypted communications provider Unseen, which relocated its operations there.

Unseen moved its servers and bank accounts from the US to Iceland based on the NSA’s vast reach and the Nordic country’s commitment to privacy rights.

“Our customers demanded it. They wanted us to move to a place where they felt their data was safe,” Unseen founder Chris Kitze told RT.