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Government of India is considering a ban on WhatsApp Calls

Will this actually prevent militants from communicating?

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WhatsApp and many other Instant Messengers have been in the crosshairs with governments around the world due to the misuse of available onboard encryption. End-to-end encryption protects the user’s messages from snooping eyes, but at the same time, the technology has been abused by terrorists and criminals to protect themselves from law enforcement authorities.

According to NDTV, a meeting was held in New Delhi yesterday where the Home Ministry expressed its concern over anti-national elements in the country using social media apps to carry out their activities. It was highlighted that detained terrorists had revealed to the Jammu and Kashmir police that they were taking directions from across the border via WhatsApp calls during the Nagrota army camp attack in 2016, in which seven army men were killed.


The authorities have now expressed a desire to monitor social media apps including messaging apps like WhatsApp. Top officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as well as those from security agencies and J&K police, agreed that WhatsApp is “the preferred medium of communication for anti-national forces.”

It is highly unlikely that WhatsApp or any other major player will hand over the encryption keys to the government, hence the authorities are trying to bring these services under Indian jurisdiction by establishing new policies. WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is already in hot water after data of more than 50 million users was shared with third parties without consent. Telegram stood by its users and declined to share the keys with the Russian Government a few months back and the app has been banned in the country since then.

The authorities are also considering taking inspiration from Gulf countries like the UAE where VoIP calls are strictly banned over major players like WhatsApp. Currently, the officials are meeting with representatives of social media platforms for compliance.

Apps

Google Maps incognito mode coming soon

It’s in testing phase now

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During Google I/O 2019, the company announced that it is bringing its incognito mode to its Youtube, Google Search and Google Maps apps. Youtube already got its incognito mode, leaving the two without it. However, that would soon change as Google is reportedly the feature on Maps, as spotted by XDA Developer’s Mishaal Rahman.

Incognito mode in Google Maps will be a boon for users who don’t want their location to appear on their timeline. It can also hide searches for places and locations where users can have their “private” time.


Baking it directly into the app is useful. It’s so much easier than having to access it via the Chrome browser’s incognito mode and search for the mobile version of Google Map’s website.

Google putting incognito mode into its native apps is in line with its mission to put more privacy controls in the hands of its users. As more and more tech companies are being scrutinized for supposedly interfering with their users’ private lives, Google’s move is surely a step in the right direction.

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Google wants to assists users without depending on the Internet

And Google Pay just got more exciting!

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Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.

Google Assistant

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?


A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.

Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.

Google Pay

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.

Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.

The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.

New AI Lab

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.

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SIM card vulnerability puts your sensitive information at risk

It’s called the SIMjacker

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SIM cards are very important. However, a new SIM card vulnerability found out by AdaptiveMobile Security might be putting our information at risk. The Simjacker exploit, which was recently found out and still being investigated on, allows malicious hackers to steal sensitive information from your phone through a SIM card.

Mechanism of attack

Infographic explaining the attack using Simjacker vulnerability | Photo by Simjacker.com

How does the Simjacker vulnerability work?


First, a hacker sends a malicious code to your phone through SMS. Then, the malicious code is read directly by your SIM card. The code then causes the [email protected] browser to send sensitive information to an accomplice device through SMS.

According to the report pulished by AdaptiveMobile Security regarding the vulnerability, the [email protected] browser is found on most SIM cards even though its development was abandoned many years ago. [email protected] browser was never updated, so it carries the risk of sending sensitive information to hackers when exploited successfully.

Sensitive information retrieved and transmitted by the [email protected] browser include location and the IMEI of an exploited device. The IMEI is a shorthand for International Mobile Equipment Identity, which is a 15 digit number unique to your smartphone that has some information about your device including its brand and model. As such, hackers can determine your exact location if you have a compromised SIM card, regardless of what device you have.

And the worst part of the attack is that you have no way of knowing that it has already been done since it all happens within the SIM card.

Origin and scope of the attack

The purpose for carrying an attack varies. However, the report traces the origin to an unspecified private company that works with governments to monitor individuals. So, there is a real possibility that it has been used to spy on us. And rightly so, since specific individuals were targeted in a certain country.

The report also warned that over one billion smartphones across all continents could be at risk to the vulnerability — and you could be one of them.

Response to the attack

In response to the discovered vulnerability, industry association SIMalliance has already put up recommendations for network providers to secure their networks. At this point in time, you can’t do anything to secure yourself from the vulnerability, unless you decided to go SIM-free.

But as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t just give your smartphone number like a free lunch. It also pays to update your smartphone once in a while, since some updates are designed to secure your phone from these kind of vulnerabilities and attacks.

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