As the issue of spyware attack and data breach through WhatsApp of 121 Indians came into the highlight, government of India had sent a notice to WhatsApp, accusing it for not informing the government about it. Countering this the company in reply claimed that besides a notification in May, it had also sent a letter in early September about the privacy breach of 121 Indians by the Israeli software Pegasus and sent the proof of the same as an attachment.
- The spyware had targeted select lawyers, journalists and activists. WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Israeli firm in a U.S. federal court in San Francisco, alleging that the Israeli group had targeted WhatsApp users and was seeking permanent injunction banning NSO from using its services which NSO denied.
- This issue had multiple impacts, the most notable being a spike in the downloads of Telegram and Signal in India. For WhatsApp, India is the largest market with 400 million users. The breach seems to have put a doubt in the minds of many. Data shared by San Francisco headquartered app analytics firm App Annie, reveals Signal peaked at the 39th position in the social networking app downloads category in India on the iOS app store on November 3, up from its 105th position a week ago. Similarly, on Google Play, Signal peaked at 31st position in the communications app downloads category in India, a jump from its 255th position a week ago. WhatsApp slipped from 1st position to 4th position on Google play in the most downloaded apps in communications category.
- Cyber Security experts say Telegram and Signal are much superior when it comes to data security. Among the two, Signal is considered as superior in terms of security but Telegram is much more user friendly and saves all the data on cloud.
- In order to analyse this situation, first let’s understand how this spyware works. In the case of WhatsApp, a specially designed call was used to trigger a buffer overflow which allowed the installation of spyware in the target’s device which in turn was used to take control of the device.
- Pegasus is a state-of-the-art spyware and NSO charges millions for its products and services. So, the question that arises is that who in India can afford NSO’s services to target select individuals. Post Cambridge Analytics, this breach would certainly affect the faith of its users in the company and in turn affect the brand image and brand value of the company to a great extent. Another thought that pops up is that whether the shift to the digital era safe and sound and whether we have requisite infrastructure and tools to protect data and maintain privacy at such a large scale.