Cheap international calls over VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) may soon be a thing of the past for Indians as the Intelligence Bureau has asked the premier telecom body, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), to block all Internet telephony until security systems to trace the same are in place.
The Intelligence Bureau is of the view that currently, India does not have the capabilities to track internet telephony calls – both domestic & international – and had asked the DoT find an “early solution to this issue in the interest of national security”.
The ‘recommendation’ comes in the wake of last year’s 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, where the terrorists used this medium for communication.
“The terrorists used net telephony as they were aware that India did not have the technological capabilities to do a live trace of such calls,” Cyber security expert Vijay Mukhi told Economic Times. “In the US and Europe, all players who offer VOIP services have provisions that allow governments to track these calls. Many of them have also installed equipment at their premises to monitor VOIP calls upon orders from governments.”
According to a report by telecom regulator TRAI, consumers used over 130 million minutes of Internet telephony in the January-March quarter of this year. This report also adds that 34 ISPs in India offer net telephony services in India legally.
“This is a good move and it will also make the ISPs compliant to law,” Mukhi told rediff.com. “We cannot obviously stop all the players as there are thousands of them but it can help to a large extent by blocking all the main players.”
“This will hit consumers very badly. Not only are the calls cheaper, the sound quality is also much better. The government could work out an agreement with the main players in this regard. Consumers should not suffer as a result of government’s inaction,” Mukhi added.
The jury is still out on the necessity of such an extreme step. On the one hand, the important of security cannot be taken lightly any more in the light of recent events across the world; on the other hand, curbing advances in technology that enable better communications do not benefit anyone. What’s your take? Let us know in the comments section below…