Government has provided more than 500 customised Google Pixel phones with Reliance Jio SIM cards to senior bureaucrats for “secure communication.” These phones were distributed two months ago. The phones run on Android OS and have a pre-stored directory that contains the number of all the officials above the rank of joint secretary.
The government already uses RAX, which is a fixed landline secure communication network. When the NDA government came to power in 2014, the number of RAX lines was increased from 1,300 to 5,000.
But being a landline connection RAX suffered a limitation of reach; the new mobile phones will ensure communication even if an officer is out of office. They have also been customised to suit the security needs of officials. However, an official said that, many officials are not using these phones and they are kept as “showpieces.” According to him, if you call up any of the pre-stored numbers, seldom anyone picks up. This is because they generally prefer to talk on the office landline.
Recently, CERT-IN or the Computer Emergency Response System- India, which is the cyber security arm of the government, has sought details of the security process followed by over 30 handset firms selling mobile phones in the country.
CERT-IN DG Sanjay Bahl has said that security measures must be developed and applied to smartphones from security in multiple layers of hardware or software to the dissemination of information to users.
The government is currently planning to create a secure communications ecosystem for its officials, particularly for those who are working in sensitive sectors like defence, telecommunication and intelligence. The Ministry of Electronics and IT is also working on a framework to secure not only mobile phones, but also emails of the government officials.
A government presentation on vulnerabilities of mobile said that in November 2016, a security firm Kryptowire has raised concerns over a Chinese firm which is transmitting personal data of the customers, including contacts and texts, to servers in China.
The mobiles are playing a crucial role in achieving goals of digital India and have already achieved an impressive penetration of 65% to 75% in the country. Today, these devices hold valuable information of users while at the same time empowering them to interact with their surroundings in innovative ways. Citizens have placed their trust in the convenience and productivity that these devices offer.