The marathon media coverage of India’s very own 9/11 has drawn to a close, leaving behind images of destruction and bloodshed that promise to remain etched on the nation’s collective memory for a long, long time to come.
However, as shell-shocked spectators remained rooted to their TV sets, tracked the breaking news on websites, scanned blogs, the subjects of their curiosity were themselves doing exactly the same.
For, reports by various news sites suggest that state-of-the-art technology was sported by the terrorists, which aided them in their audacious mission in no small measure; their backpacks are said to have contained more than one BlackBerry handset.
The reports also said that the terrorists had used their BlackBerrys to surf the web and keep track of police movements and global reaction to the attacks, as later analysis of the recovered devices showed.
So, did the tech-savvy terrorists have an edge over the security forces during the 50-plus hour siege, in that they had access to the minute-by-minute news being telecast? And did the sleek gadget help them organise their counter-offensive?
‘Berry Berry’ dangerous?
Developed by Canadian firm Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry is a patented service that allows access to e-mails on mobile phones just like SMS on conventional mobile phones.
The high-end service, however has been a matter of concern for security agencies across the world. Earlier this year, India’s Union Home Ministry had rejected Tata Teleservices application for offering BlackBerry Service to the country, as it found the BlackBerry’s security a bit “too secure” for its liking.
The Union Home Ministry has been insisting on access to all communications made through a mobile device at any given time; this, however, is not possible in the case of BlackBerry which works through a server and transfers data in an encrypted format. This in turn makes monitoring and intercepting data virtually impossible.
However, after a raging controversy erupted over its move to ban BlackBerry operations by mobile service providers, the government ruled out banning the service on March 14, maintaining that security aspects would be looked into. “We will discuss the issue in the Telecom Commission... the country’s security is of paramount importance,” was Telecom Minister A Raja’s take on the issue then.
The value-added service, targeting High Networth Individuals (HNIs) and corporates is so lucrative that even the sate-owned BSNL is the in the process to launch the service once regulatory issues were resolved.
The moot question now is, will the Union Home Ministry now wake up, acknowledge the sinister role of the BlackBerry in the Mumbai terror attacks and impose a blanket ban on it? Or will economic considerations force it to backtrack as before and skirt the issue as inconsequential?