The National Security Council has just backed the recommendation issued by the Intel Agencies of India that suggests the blocking or discouraging of the use of 52 mobile-based apps for users in India. There have been increasing concerns that these apps are not safe and that they might have extracted a large amount of data outside India including sensitive information about users and more. The applications listed in the report included popular apps including TikTok, Zoom, SHAREit, Xender, and more.
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A senior official from the Government of India has also suggested that this recommendation of the Intel agencies is also backed by the National Security Council Secretariat as they feel that the applications can be detrimental to the national security.
According to an official “The discussions on the recommendations are continuing”, this suggests that the risks attached to each mobile app will have to be examined individually before the government can give a final word.
The home ministry had already issued an advisory in April this year about the usage of some red flag mobile apps after the recommendation received by the National Cybersecurity agency – Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT). India was not even the first country to issue these restrictions as the Taiwan government had already banned the usage of Zoom for government agencies. The Foreign Ministry of Germany also restricts the usage of Zoom and limits it emergency situations on the personal computers only, the United States Senate has gone a step ahead and advised its members to use other platforms.
While ByteDance did respond back to the Home Ministry Advisory and insisted that they were serious about the security of their users, the stance of the ministry has remained unaffected. There have been suggestions and requests for action to be taken against mobile apps which are perceived as a national security risk. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok has issued denials and has rejected the claims for any data breach in the past.
Officials state that there were inputs that many Android and iOS apps developed or launched by companies with Chinese links had the potential to be used as spyware or malware. There have been reports that security agencies have advised security personal from using these red flag mobile apps in view of the “detrimental impact that this could have on data security”. Concerns of this sort with respect to backdoors in China linked hardware and software have been frequently discussed by western security agencies too. One argument even states that China could use it to access and degrade communications services in case of a conflict.
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