Senior Bureaucrats Get Secure Google Pixel Mobiles From The Government, For “Secure Communications.”

Concerns Over Security of Handsets.

Government has Given Nearly 500 Customized Google Pixel Phones with Reliance Jio SIM Cards to Senior Bureaucrats for “Secure Communication,” a Top Government said.The Phones, which Run on Android OS, have a Pre-Stored Directory that Contains the Number of all Officials above the Rank of Joint Secretary. The Phones were Distributed 2 Months ago.

More RAX Lines.

The Government already Uses RAX, a Fixed Landline Secure Communication Network & after the NDA Government came to Power, the Number of RAX Lines were Increased from 1,300 to 5,000.

Explaining the Rationale Behind the Phones when RAX Exists, a Senior Government official said, “being a Landline Connection RAX has a Limitation; the Mobile Phones will Ensure Communication even if an Officer is Out Of Office. They have been Customized to Suit the Security Needs.”

Largely Unused?

However, another Official said many Officials were not Using these Phones & they were Kept as “Showpiece.”

“If you Call Up any of the Pre-Stored Numbers, Seldom Anyone Picks Up. They Prefer to Talk on the Office Landline. Its use has Not Picked Up,” said the Official.

Recently, the Computer Emergency Response System- India (CERT-IN), the Cyber Security Arm of the Government, Sought Details of the Security Process Followed by over 30 Handset Firms Selling Mobile Phones in the Country.

In the Letter, CERT-IN DG Sanjay Bahl said Security Measures must be Developed & Applied to Smartphones “From Security in Multiple Layers of Hardware/ Firmware/ Software to the Dissemination of Information to…Users.”The Government is Planning to Create a Secure Communications Ecosystem for its Officials, Particularly those Working in Sensitive Sectors like Defense, Telecommunication & Intelligence. The Ministry of Electronics & IT is Working on a Framework to Secure not only Mobile Phones, but also Email used by Government Officials.

“The Mobile Smartphone Devices are Playing a Crucial Role in Achieving Goals of Digital India & have Achieved an Impressive Penetration of 65% to 75% in the Country. Today, these Devices Hold Valuable Information of Users while Empowering them to Interact with their Surroundings & Innovative ways. Citizens Place that Trust in the Convenience & Productivity that these Devices Offer,” the letter said.A Government Presentation on Vulnerabilities of Smartphones said that in November 2016, a Security Firm Kryptowire has Raised Concerns over a Chinese Firm Transmitting Phones, including Contacts & Text, to Servers in China. “The Company Shanghai Ad-Ups Bypassed Android Permission Model, Executed Remote Commands with Escalated Privileges & was able to Re-program the Device,” an IT Ministry Official said.

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