India Tightens Security Rules for Telecom

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The Indian government on Wednesday amended the licenses of telecommunications service providers to make them "completely and totally responsible" for the security of their networks.

The amendment to the license conditions was posted on the website of the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) late Wednesday. The new rules reflect India's growing concern that communications networks are being misused by terrorists and other enemies of the country.

This concern about security was first reflected in the government's decision to ask service providers in December to submit equipment they purchase for security checks and clearance by the government. Although the DOT denied that there was a ban on equipment from any specific country, Chinese equipment vendors such as Huawei Technologies said orders for their equipment had not been cleared from February.

India and China went to war in 1962, and strained relations continue over a border dispute between the two countries.

Under the new rules, service providers will now have to engage government-approved, internationally accredited network audit and certification agencies for network forensics, network hardening, a network penetration test and risk assessment. The network audit and certification agency cannot be from the same country as the equipment vendor, the DOT said.

Equipment vendors will also be required to allow service providers and the DOT or designated agencies to inspect their hardware, software, design, development, manufacturing facility and supply chain, and subject all software to a security threat check at the time of procurement and at specified instances thereafter, the DOT said.

Vendors can also face fines and get blacklisted as equipment suppliers if a security breach is detected at a later stage after the deployment of the equipment.

The government will also have access under the new rules to equipment software codes and hardware designs for inspection.

"We are glad that a resolution on the security issue has been reached," said a Huawei spokesman on Wednesday. The company's experts are studying the document with respect to its detailed industry implications, he added.

Some equipment providers said on condition of confidentiality that they will agree to the new rules, as they could otherwise miss a large business opportunity in India. Some Indian operators are scheduled to start rolling out 3G services after they are allotted spectrum by the government in September, while others are expanding their earlier networks.

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