Milind Mungale says that these 59 apps gave an opportunity for continuous monitoring and could also be a conduit for ransomware
When the Indian government on 29 June banned 59 apps of Chinese origin, including the highly popular TikTok, UC Browser, Weibo and WeChat, the explanation given by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology was that it had received “many complaints from various sources, including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”. It added that the blockage is to safeguard the “sovereignty and integrity of India” and that several citizens had reportedly raised concerns in representations to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) regarding security of data and loss of privacy in using these apps. Obviously, the Government did not mention the standoff with China on the borders are the reason for the ban.
How do Indian CISOs react to this crucial decision? Most of them believe this is a very bold move by the government to ensure safety and sovereignty of the Indian cyber space. In fact, some of them wants further steps like Akhil Verma, CISO, Airtel Payments Bank, who said there should be greater scrutiny of companies, device makers and other apps which is having exposure to China, which may trigger reactive attacks.
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He pointed out that the Government of India had permitted China for many years to invest in critical infrastructure in India and now that country has keys to such infrastructure and through this, the country can exert influence over financial sector as well.
Pointing out that nowadays, no country can afford to have physical wars, Akhil says war is now in the form of cyber, trade and potentially supply chain conflicts. “China has great investment in Indian companies and these should be under strict scrutiny, especially the tech platforms,” he adds.
He is of the view that the most malicious activity these banned apps would have been doing are breach of data privacy. “While installing these apps, most of the users do not bother about the permissions sought by the apps and mechanically grant them. Obviously, the user is compromising his privacy,” he adds.
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