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Not So Friendly: Indian Minister Raises Espionage Concern Over Imported Gadgets

© Flickr / Tim SimpsonComputer chip
Computer chip - Sputnik International
An Indian official has warned the establishment against a "not so friendly" nation's involvement in IT and communication projects, as they could be bugged for espionage. Most of India’s wireless and telecommunications infrastructure is procured from the Chinese companies.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — India's junior minister for Information Technology, Alphons Kannanthanam, has warned the government that devices imported from a "not-so-friendly country" could have spying devices attached to them. During a conference on cybersecurity in New Delhi, Minister Kannanthanam called upon the government to re-examine its procurement policy, which lays bigger emphasis on cost factors than security concerns.

READ MORE: India to Tighten Digital Financial Security in Wake of Cyberattacks From China

"We buy the cheapest equipment which comes from somewhere. Do we need to really relook at our L1 (lowest bidder) procedures, where we buy from the lowest quoted guys, whose objective possibly is to spy on you and our country? I think we need to relook at it at this point in time," Kannanthanam added.

Kannanthanam said that devices imported from "unfriendly" nations could be switched off with a press of a button or voice command.

"I am a little scared about a lot of equipment being imported into India from the not-so-friendly country. I hope you understand what I mean. I don't have to name them," Kannanthanam said while speaking at Cyber Surakshit Bharat CISO Conclave in New Delhi.

Cybersecurity - Sputnik International
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India's import bill of electronic hardware during 2016 was approximately $38 billion which accounted for over 60% of the country's total consumption of the items. Chinese companies have a monopoly over the supply of electronic items like mobile phones, medical equipment, telecom network gear and for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A significant portion of India's wireless and telecommunications infrastructure is procured from the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei. These companies are also expected to grab a major portion of the country's smart city projects in the coming days. Chinese firms are also interested in bidding for the supply of submarine communication cable power and other military-related infrastructure.

READ MORE: India Fears Chinese Phones May Be Stealing Personal Info

India's National Security Council Secretariat warned in 2013 that Huawei and ZTE were projects controlled by China's People Liberation Army. However, India's inability to match up to China's price competitiveness has complicated the concerns.

In November last year, India's Intelligence Bureau asked troops posted on the China border to format their smartphones and delete 42 applications, including popular ones such as Truecaller and WeChat, with immediate effect on suspicion of espionage by the Chinese government.

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