India Reviewing Telecom Equipment Security Rules

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India's Department of Telecommunications (DOT) is reviewing tight security rules that it announced in July on imported telecommunications equipment by service providers, according to sources who declined to be named.

Some vendors are also reporting that the government has started clearing equipment purchases by service providers.

Nokia Siemens said on Thursday that orders for its equipment from service providers have started getting cleared by the DOT, but using the older rules. The company said it welcomed the government's decision to review the DOT's new rules, and offered to provide insights to government agencies into globally accepted telecom network security norms.

The change in the DOT's position follows a letter from the prime minister's office asking the agency to review the rules after vendors and trade bodies criticized the measures, according to sources.

Ericsson described some of the new clauses as unprecedented. Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies was inclined to accept the rules rather than lose business in India.

A DOT spokesman said on Thursday that he was not aware of any change in the rules' status.

The new security rules, among other things, require vendors to give the Indian government access to the equipment's source code and design details.

Equipment vendors are also required to allow service providers and the DOT or designated agencies to inspect their hardware and software as well as design, development and manufacturing facilities and supply chain. All software is subject to a security threat check at the time of procurement and at specified instances thereafter.

Vendors could also face stiff fines and blacklists if a security breach was detected after the equipment is deployed.

The Indian government wants to ensure that spyware, malware and other threats do not get into networks.

It is unknown whether orders on Chinese vendors, like ZTE, are also being cleared under the earlier rules. The companies were not immediately available for comment. Indian security agencies are particularly worried about importing equipment from Chinese companies, though the DOT said there is no ban on equipment suppliers from a specific country. The two countries have a long-standing border dispute and fought a war in 1962.

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