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India to restrict foreign cloud-based email services after NSA leaks

India will impose a ban on the use of foreign cloud-based email services to send official communications, before the end of the year.

It would prevent civil servants using Gmail, Yahoo! or Outlook.com.

Instead they would be required to use a service provided by the country’s own National Informatics Centre (NIC).

The move follows the publication of leaks about US cyber-spying operations.

According to documents given to the Guardian and subsequently reported by The Hindu newspaper in June, 6.3 billion pieces of information were collected from India’s computer and telephone networks over the course of a month by the US NSA, making it the fifth most “intensively watched” country.

India’s communications and IT minister first announced his intention to restrict which email services officials could use in August.

He added that staff working outside the country should use virtual private networks and one-time passwords when accessing NIC servers to further protect themselves.

India will impose a ban on the use of foreign cloud-based email services to send official communications, before the end of the year

India will impose a ban on the use of foreign cloud-based email services to send official communications, before the end of the year

“It is imperative in view of the security concerns that exist in other countries,” Kapil Sibal said at the time.

One of the minister’s officials has now confirmed the plan is close to implementation.

“Our effort will be to operationalise the policy by mid or end-December,” said J Satyanarayana, secretary at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, at a conference in Delhi.

India is not the only country implementing such measures.

Earlier this month Brazil’s president confirmed her country planned to set up its own secure, encrypted email service to “prevent possible espionage”.

The move would prevent the NSA and GCHQ (the UK Government Communications Headquarters) monitoring locally sent and received messages unless Brazilians allowed them access to their servers or if the emails were sent to an account belonging to a non-protected service.

President Dilma Rousseff, in a speech at the UN. described the suspected interception of Brazilian diplomats’ data as “a breach of international law”.

However, India’s ministers have been less vocal about the issue.

“This is not scrutiny and access to actual messages,” said India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in July when questioned about the alleged surveillance of his country.

“It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent. It is not actually snooping specifically on content of anybody’s message or conversation.”

India is in the process of creating its own data intercept scheme called the Centralized Monitoring System.

Local telecoms operators have been told they must co-operate with the surveillance effort, which involves a variety of local security agencies.