Cybersecurity experts warn that free text messaging applications for smart phones, such as WhatsApp and WeChat, pose a threat to the country’s national security apart from compromising an individual user’s data.
When users download these apps on their phones, they agree to a host of conditions that essentially enable the companies to access a majority of the users’ phone data, including their conversations, contacts, etc. Since the companies’ servers are on foreign shores, sensitive data or information can well be compromised.
While WhatsApp has its server in the US, WeChat has its servers in China. Human rights activists working in China have expressed concern about possible surveillance of their conversations through WeChat.
India has already raised concern over Chinese telecom firms ZTE and Huawei, whose close ties to the Chinese government, have obstructed their footprint in India. What may compound the worry now is the fact that an increasing number of Indian political leaders, policymakers, businessmen and others are using these apps, potentially dealing a blow to sensitive data.
“WeChat’s security loopholes have been largely ignored by its users, and this can be exploited to easily access their data,” Internet security expert Jiten Jain told dna.
“WhatsApp has a server in the US, so it won’t be surprising if we find out tomorrow that US intelligence agencies are scanning our messages.”
Jain and others like him will demonstrate how these apps can act as potential spying tools at a hackers conference in Delhi on Sunday. At the conference, security expert Mohit Kumar will show how users’ personal data can be accessed while IT security expert Sajan Viswambharan will reveal how WeChat’s loopholes can be a threat to India’s national security as it effectively gives the Chinese government access to chat logs and all the data on users’ smart phones.
“The microphone on a device, on which WeChat has been installed, can record conversations if the device is on even without the user being aware of it. Now imagine if this happens while a minister is meeting the head of security agencies or the prime minister on critical issues,” said Kumar.