The DoT is also setting up Centralised Monitoring System for lawful interception and monitoring of telephone and Internet services

In response to the perception within the intelligence and defence community of the growing threat to national security from imported Chinese telecom equipment, the Centre is planning to set up a ‘Telecom Security Directorate.’ This is part of the government’s broader strategy to set up an institutional framework of technical manpower to handle telecom security-related issues linked to the use of telecom gear manufactured by Chinese giants Huawei and ZTE. The Department of Telecommunications is also setting up the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) for lawful interception and monitoring of telephone and Internet services, besides establishing the Centre for Telecom Equipment and Security Certification, for which a pilot laboratory has been set up at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc)-Bangalore that will carry out R&D activities to develop test tools.

“A regulatory framework has already been mandated to deal with potential threats by the induction of Chinese telecom equipment or from any other source. But, to ensure the compliance of the security guidelines contained in licence amendment (made in 2011) ... it is necessary to create an institutional framework of technical manpower for which a proposal has already been submitted to create [a] Telecom Security Directorate to handle telecom security related issues,” says an internal note of the DoT’s security wing.

The document also refers to the findings of a report of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Congress on ‘issues posed by Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE’ and notes that “Huawei could not establish beyond doubt that it is not a company functioning under the direct control of the Chinese army and [that its] decision making is not influenced by the same.”

Indian intelligence agencies have highlighted other crucial elements in the U.S. Committee report, which has asked for “a detailed accounting of foreign made hardware/software on the service provider’s network along with the information related to security incidence such as discovery of unauthorised electronic hardware or suspicious equipment capable of duplication for redirecting data.”

Noting that Chinese telecom equipment has already been banned from deployment in “sensitive regions” that are “defined as States having international borders with China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan,” a senior Home Ministry official said it was alarming that the DoT was yet to carry out a systematic study to gauge the threat being posed by imported telecom gear, a majority of which comes from China. “The DoT’s budgeting has been poor when it comes to R&D spending on security programmes, which was just Rs. 67 crore in entire 11th Plan period (2007-12),” he noted.

A senior DoT official, however, said in the 12th Plan period (2013-18) Rs. 550 crore has been proposed for security projects. While Rs. 300 crore would be spent on operation and maintenance of security projects like the Centralised Monitoring System, Rs.100 crore would be given for setting up the Centre for Telecom Equipment Testing and Security Certification. The CMS would have a central and regional database which would help Central and State-level law enforcement agencies in interception, monitoring and call data analysis.

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