Leaked memo outlines backdoor usage for government intercepts

Nokia, RIM, and Apple handed the Indian government backdoors. Image: Nokia.

Last week, The Tech Herald reported on the Indian group Lords of Dharmaraja, and their plan to release information taken from a recent breach of servers maintained by India’s military intelligence division. The story focused on Symantec’s source code, but has since expanded to India’s use of communication intercept protocols.

As it turns out, the Lords of Dharmaraja released a memo where a group of vendors known as RINOA (RIM, Nokia, and Apple), are said to have provided India with backdoors into their technology in order to them to maintain a presence in the local market space. These backend offerings allowed the military to conduct surveillance (RINOA SUR) against the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Symantec is mentioned as well, with a sentence in the memo pertaining to them delivering source code for mobile platforms, but it also says that India’s Ministry of Defense has “an agreement with all major device vendors” to provide the country with the source code and information needed for their SUR (surveillance) platform.

Accordingly, the memo adds, personnel from Indian Naval Military Intelligence were dispatched to the People’s Republic of China to undertake Telecommunications Surveillance (TESUR) using the RINOA source code and CYCADA-based technologies.

In essence, the memo outlines the fact that India has a monitoring program in place that can track Internet (LAN, VPN, POP3), as well as telecomm-related communications. All of this made possible by the vendors, who offered backdoors and source code to the government. Yet, the vendors had little choice, if they wished to do business in India, one of the world’s largest markets for IT services. To prove that the TESUR operation leveraging RINOA SUR-based controls were effective, the memo included comments intercepted by the Indian government.

Overall, the memo expressed the fact that India’s Military Intelligence was pleased with the RINOA SUR platform.

Lawful Interception and IT Intrusion technologies are nearly as old as the laws allowing their usage. The existence of these tools has created a billion dollar industry, attracting organizations large and small, offering an assortment of wares to monitor communications and people.

By and large, the technologies are used legally by those controlling them. The U.S. has such technologies, and so does the U.K., Israel, Iran, Egypt, and nearly all other major governments on the planet. Seeing India on the list isn’t a shock.

Speaking about the memo and its impact, security and privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian commented, “Due to export control [requirements], NSA (and until 2010, Commerce Dept) have source code for all US made enterprise security/communications products.”

“Instead of worrying about hackers getting access to 5+ year old Norton code we should worry about what NSA/US Military does with recent code.”

He has a point, but it is unlikely that the U.S. will comment.

As an example of what intercept and monitoring tools can do, here are just two firms that offer such technologies, to governments all over the globe.

Shoghi Communications Ltd.

Focused on communications and signals intelligence, this firm is located in northern India, rather close to Pakistan. They work with governments mainly, based on company information, but offer some solutions to law enforcement as well.

Some of the technology available includes voice analysis, which goes hand in hand with the interception products that can listen to conversations on any platform. In addition to the voice-based monitoring and interception products, Shoghi offers the ability for agencies to collect, decode and analyze Wi-Fi IP traffic.

“The system can decode and re-construct captured IP packets like HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POP, chat and IP telephony etc. (Further protocols can be made available on request), from all 802.11x channel in stealth mode… The system is capable of capturing traffic on all fourteen 802.11x channels simultaneously [with or without] applying any capture filter,” product data explains.

“The system is capable of recovering WEP, WPA, WPA2-PSK keys. The SCL- 2052 has an additional option for an FPGA based key recovery accelerator capable of retrieving WPA keys at extremely high speeds. Multiple FPGA cards can be added to further boost the speed of key retrieval.”


ELAMAN is German-based firm that specializes in security and communications monitoring. They have headquarters in Munich, and a subsidiary in Dubai (UAE).

According to the company, they offer law enforcement and governments the ability to intercept “…all kinds of communication within different telecommunication networks and carriers inside and outside a country’s borders.”

They can monitor PSTN, private networks (PABX), wireless communications (WIFI & WIMAX), cellular communications (GSM, GPRS, CDMA, UMTS), and satellite communications such as VSAT (a small two-way satellite ground station), Thuraya (a satellite communication provider covering Europe, the Middle East, North, Central and East Africa, Asia and Australia), and Inmarsat (a British satellite telecommunications company).

Like this article? Please share on Facebook and give The Tech Herald a Like too!

From our Other Sites

Man Makes Tiny Edible Pancakes with Tiny Kitchen Tools (Video)

This Japanese guy cooks up some pancakes…nothing special there right? Well he uses tiny implements to do it and makes perfect little pancakes. Kinda cool and they look tasty!

What Color is this Dress?

White and Gold or Blue and Black?
Well this one has been trending all over the web, just what color is this dress? It all started in Scotland when the mother of a bride-to-be sent a picture to her daughter asking what she thought of the dress. The bride and groom each saw the image differently, this then got posted online and picked up by some viral sites. The lighting in photo is probably  causing different people to see it as either white and gold or blue and black. Prof Stephen Westland, chair of color science and technology at a University in the UK told the BBC that it was impossible to see what other people see but that it was most […]

McLaren 675LT Pictures

Some great shots of the forthcoming McLaren 675LT. This coupe will get you to 60mph in less than 2.9 second and go all the way to 205mph.

McLaren 675LT Details

McLaren’s 675LT will debut at this year’s Geneva show and promises some eye-popping performance. The coupe only 675LT has a 3.8 liter V8 that will get you from 0-60mph in less than 2.9 seconds and to 124mph in less than 7.9 secondsMore than a third of the parts have been changed compared with its stable mate […]

McLaren 675LT Wallpaper

Some cool McLaren 675LT Wallpaper. The McLaren 675LT is the latest coupe to come from the supercar maker and has a top speed of 205mph.Click on an image to open a page with multiple sizes that you can download to use as wallpaper for your mobile or desktop.More McLaren Wallpaper.

Octopus hunts on land, grabs crab (Video)

This crab is minding its own business searching the rock pools for food when suddenly an octopus leaps out of the water and grabs it. The amazing thing is that the octopus does not just jump on the crab it actually pulls it all the way back to the rock pool it came from. If you check the second video you will see it is not unknown for octopus to come out of the water and the one in the second video has a crab with it, though is not hunting one! Octopus Walks on Land at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve The video was taken by Porsche Indrisie in Yallingup, Western […]

Stunning Mars Rover Selfie

This image by the Curiosity Mars rover is not exactly your typical selfie. It is made up of a bunch of images taken by the rover during January 2015 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager. This (MAHLI) camera is at the end of the robot’s arm. For a sense of scale the rover’s wheels are about 20 inches diameter and 16 inches wide. Check the annotated image below for more information on the surroundings. Also if you really want to see some detail click this very large image, 36mb, at NASA.  

How the Sahara Helps Feed the Amazon (Video)

Sahara to Amazon
This cool video from NASA shows how dust is transferred across the Atlantic to the Amazon rainforest and helps nourish the plants growing there. For the first time scientists have measured the amount of dust and the amount of phosphorus in the dust. The later acts like a fertiliser and helps replenish the phosphorus the rainforest loses each year, around 22,000 tons. Amazing how something we perceive as being desolate like a desert actually has an important role in sustaining somewhere we see as teeming with life. Image and video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Bouncing Laser Guided Bomb (Video)

This amazing video shows a laser guided bomb bouncing back up after hitting its target. We actually think this is a non-explosive bomb designed to test guidance systems but it is still pretty remarkable and somewhat scary.

South Koreans Swallowed by Sinkhole (Video)

Thankfully the couple survived their adventure.
This amazing footage taken from the CCTV on a passing bus shows the moment two pedestrians in South Korea fall down a sinkhole in the street! Rescue workers managed to save the pair, who were treated in a nearby hospital for minor injuries. According to reports the city authorities and the Korean Geotechnical Society are looking into the cause.