Since the past couple of years, Indian security agencies have been suspicious of Chinese manufactured telecom equipment. They were suspected to contain intentionally embedded software that could sent reports back to China, regarding traffic flowing through that hardware.
The security agencies have now expanded their scrutiny to cover the large number of Cable TV and DTH STBs currently sourced from China, by Indian companies. Security agencies have proposed guidelines for importing STBs similar to those already in place for telecommunication equipment.
Confirming such a possibility, Vineet Wadhwa, chief technology officer, Logic Eastern, a Noida-based STB manufacturer explained “One can tamper with the software controlling the ports for video conference using an advanced digital STB. Audio and video monitoring of any consumer premises can be done if someone wants to do it using the digital cable TV infrastructure.”
If the proposal goes through, all STB importers will have to give a personal undertaking regarding the legitimacy of the product. If malware is found on the imported product, the importer will be liable to attract penalties of up to R50 Crore and cancellation of its license (in case the importer is a Cable network or DTH platform).
Based on the mandatory digitisation ordinance declared on 13th Oct 2011, Cable networks will have to import millions of STBs, most of them from China, due to the substantially lower prices of Chinese imports. MSOs alone project imports of upto 40 million STBs in the next 2 years, valued at R20,000-25,000 Crore.