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Indian Gov. Seeks Explanation From WhatsApp About Privacy Breach Of Its Indian Users

Indian Gov. Seeks Explanation From WhatsApp About Privacy Breach Of Its Indian Users
Journalists and activists in India were among some 1,400 people who were targeted worldwide for espionage by an Israeli-made spyware, said the messaging app WhatsApp.
The matter came to light after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Is NSO Group of Israel in the United States on Wednesday in which the company alleged that the firm was behind the cyber attacks which infested targeted devices having the app between April and May this year.
The NSO Group is known for making software for surveillance and it has strongly denied any involvement in the case.
India is the biggest market for WhatsApp with more than 400 million WhatsApp users there.
The modus operandi of the hackers involved infecting the targeted devices through a WhatsApp call or video call which allowed the hackers to infect the devices with a malware taking advantage of a vulnerability in the messaging app.
"We believe this attack targeted at least 100 members of civil society, which is an unmistakable pattern of abuse," WhatsApp said in a statement. According to the messaging company, it had first got sniff of the hacking in May and had immediately tolled out a software fix for the vulnerability and asked users to download the fix to add "new protections" to their systems.
Meanwhile the Indian government has sought an explanation from WhatsApp on Thursday asking the company to provide details about how the breach of privacy had taken place.
Stating that the government of India has sought a detailed explanation of the breach from the messaging platform, India’s Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Twitter that the government is concerned about the breach of privacy of Indian citizens on WhatsApp. "We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens," he tweeted.
He also sought to assure WhatsApp users in India that the Indian government agencies follow well-established protocol for the interception and includes measures such as sanction and supervision by highly ranked officials in the Federal and State governments.
WhastApp, owned by Facebook, said that the cyber attack had targeted members of civil society, such as human rights defenders and journalists and these targets were jointly identified by cyber experts at Toronto-based internet watchdog Citizen Lab and WhatsApp.
More than 100 cases of "abusive targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in at least 20 countries across the globe, ranging from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America" had been identified by it, said Citizen Lab.
"Indian journalists and human rights activists have been the target of surveillance and while I cannot reveal their identities and the exact number, I can say that it is not an insignificant number," WhatsApp spokesperson Carl Woog told The Indian Express newspaper.
Every one of the individuals who were targeted had been contacted and informed about the cyber attacks by the company, Woog said.
This breach of its security is a hit on WhatsApp because it promotes itself as a "secure" communications app that has a so called end-to-end encryption and no third party can intercept or read the messages exchanged between two users.
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Christopher J. Mitchell

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