Rs.900-crore corpus proposed for setting up a centre

The next five years could change the way how security agencies keep a tab on your phone calls and flow of content on the Internet as the government has proposed a Rs.900-crore corpus for setting up a ‘Centre for Communication Security Research and Monitoring' to give law enforcement agencies a free hand to intercept calls and monitor the worldwide web.

While Rs.800 crore would be invested in setting up a “Centralised Monitoring System” for interception of all types of communications through phones as well as Internet, a ‘Telecom Testing and Security Certification Centre' worth Rs.100 crore would come up for testing of all kinds of equipment, says a Department of Telecommunications report. It has been prepared by the working group on the telecom sector for the 12 Five-Year Plan (2012-17).

“For the assistance of the law enforcement [agencies], in the 11th Five-Year Plan, a Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) was envisioned. A proposal for the setting up of a Centre for Communication Security Research and Monitoring has already been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security with a government funding of Rs.450 crore…a good amount of research work on CMS has already been done and rollout has begun during 2011-12,” the report says.

Explaining how the system would be upgraded and strengthened in the next five years, the report points out that a facility for centralised monitoring will be created throughout the country across different telecom and broadband technologies and services at a cost of Rs.350 crore. The system would be further upscaled to take care of an expanded network by creating more facilities at an estimated cost of Rs.150 crore. A sum of Rs.300 crore would be kept aside for operation and maintenance of the mammoth infrastructure.

At present, the entire monitoring of phone calls and Internet content is done, after manually taking authorisation at multiple places on the premises of the telecom service providers (those giving phone and Internet services).

But this system is “time consuming and fraught with dangers of loss of secrecy” and “there is hardly any analytical capability in the system” to assist law enforcement agencies, says the report.

Anti-social activities

While building the case for the new monitoring paraphernalia, the report says: “Exponential growth and quick technological development in the telecom sector further compound the security challenges, because the expanding reach of the sophisticated telecom networks has also led to the communications systems being used by however a small number, individuals, clans and groups, from within the country and outside, for anti-social and criminal activities.”

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