Telecom Commission Cellular Loop’s Proposal Would Strengthen Mobile Based Surveillance On National Security Grounds

Telecom Commission Cellular Loop’s Proposal Would Strengthen Mobile Based Surveillance On National Security GroundsRecently the National Cyber Security Policy of India 2013 (NCSP 2013) (PDF) was released by Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY). However the same was not made part and parcel of the National Security Policy of India. Further, the cyber security policy of India itself was insufficient and weak on many counts including lack of privacy safeguards. The cyber security policy is also not at all framed to cover the telecom security aspects as well.

India has been planning to undergo technological upgrade of border broadcast infrastructure due to Chinese broadcasts. It would also be interesting to see what types of telecom security policies would be implemented for border regions of India. Telecom security in India is not in a good shape and Indian telecom infrastructures are vulnerable to numerous cyber attacks. Recently it was reported that Huawei was accused of breaching national security of India by hacking base station controller in AP.

We have no implementable cyber attacks crisis management plan of India. The critical ICT infrastructure of India (PDF) is in a poor shape.  The cyber security trends of India 2013 (PDF) proved that India has still to cover a long field before cyber security can be effectively implemented in India. Thus, telecom infrastructures and equipments located at borders of India would be more vulnerable to cyber attacks than general telecom infrastructures of India.

The Telecom Commission may clear an Rs 7,103-crore rollout of Greenfield 2G networks in regions close to the Chinese and Bangladesh borders. These regions are presently outside the mobile loop. There are 8621 villages in locations of strategic importance across the northeast that are proposed to be brought under the cellular loop for the first time to bolster mobile-based surveillance on national security grounds.

Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF), which will fund the project, will shortly invite bids from telcos for rolling out nearly 6,700 base stations in these regions. The USOF is the Department of Telecommunication’s (DOT) rural network infrastructure financing arm.

But it remains to be seen whether USOF will tweak tender norms to ensure any future cost escalations triggered by India’s spectrum reframing policy are shouldered by telecom operators. It would also be relevant to observe how the telecom security and cyber security aspects would be managed by Indian government in the near future.