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End-to-end encryption boon for terror groups in India: Experts

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End-To-End Encryption

New Delhi, May 25 : When Facebook-owned mobile messaging service WhatsApp announced to turn on end-to-end encryption for its over one billion monthly active users last month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed this as an “important milestone for the WhatsApp community.” It means that for WhatsApp users, every call they make and every message, photo, video, file and voice message they send, will be end-to-end encrypted by default, allowing users to protect their conversations from being hacked.

“So when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us,” said Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, in a blog post.

The move — coming after the FBI-Apple tussle over unlocking an iPhone used by a terrorist — has not gone well with cyber security experts in India. According to them, this may be a boon for terror groups operating in India and across the border as this ensures that their communications cannot be intercepted as they connect.

“WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption provides more encouragement to terror groups to be more bold in their communications in coded languages which can then be transmitted without the fear of being cracked on the way,” warns Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts.

In a country where WhatsApp has become somewhat of a de-facto religion for the Indian smartphone users, end-to-end encryption will hamper the Indian government’s plan to counter terrorism. “Given the fact that WhatsApp does not have an office in India, it further complicates the scenario. The Indian approach on encryption is also not clear. The draft of the National Encryption Policy received massive protests and was withdrawn by the government in 2015,” Duggal told.

Experts feel that end-to-end encryption will boost cyber radicalisation to a great extent. Recently, Islamic State (IS) released a technology guide ranking the security of more than 30 chat apps — including WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

Reports indicate that heavily encrypted Telegram app — built by a Russian developer — is currently hot among IS supporters, but with WhatsApp starting end-to-end encryption, experts fear that the IS militants — who plotted Paris attacks using WhatsApp and other encrypted apps — may shift base back on to the popular platform.

In the ensuing debate over user privacy vs country’s security, experts give security a priority.

According to Rakshit Tandon, consultant at the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and a cyber security expert, “if a smartphone or any other device or messaging app has been used against the country, law enforcement agencies have all the right to get the information out,” he told IANS.

“I will not call it hacking as is being said in the FBI-Apple case but getting the essential information out to nab the criminal and save the country from any possible terror attack,” said Tandon, who is also advisor to the Cyber Complaint Redressal Cell (UP Police Agra).

“We need better technology but not something that helps terror organisations in the long run,” added Tandon.

Lucknow-based social media analyst Anoop Mishra fears that if we can use it as a major tool for day-to-day communications, the tool can also be used by skilled terrorists or sleeper cells to plan their activities in a more secure and encrypted way.

“This is going to pose more challenges for the national security agencies, especially in countries like India, where terrorism is active in form of sleeper cells and where cyber security policies are less effective and poorly implemented,” Mishra told.

Krishna Mukherjee, analyst (telecoms) at market research firm CyberMedia Research (CMR), also feels that end-to-end encryption is a blessing in disguise for terrorists.

“Encryption means maintaining privacy for users but on the other hand, the law enforcement agencies will have a hard time in accessing critical information when dealing with terrorists. Therefore, the need of the hour is to bring some regulations with respect to this,” Mukherjee told.

According to the experts, technology companies and the Indian government should join hands in zeroing in on the criminal outfits to help safeguard the national interest.

“The collaboration between the two parties will help in maintaining privacy of users and in securing them too. Although encryption is welcome, it should come with some riders,” she adds.

There are no golden principles or formulas and everything will depend upon the peculiar, specific approach to be adopted by state actors as they move ahead.

“End-to-end encryption is now a ground reality. The fact remains how sovereign states try to come up with legal mechanisms and processes to deal with this,” asserts Duggal, also a Supreme Court advocate.

“As such, India will need to come up with its own customised approach on how to deal with this,” Duggal said.

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SC declines to entertain plea to link Aadhaar, social media accounts

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Supreme Court on Aadhaar

New Delhi, May 26 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain a plea by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking to link Aadhaar with social media accounts as a measure to curb fake accounts.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Krishna Murari and S. Ravindra Bhat, taking up the matter through video conferencing, declined to interfere with the Delhi High Court passed in 2019, which also refused to entertain the plea. “We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order of the High Court. The Special Leave Petition is, accordingly, dismissed. However, liberty is granted to the petitioner to file impleadment application in Transfer Case (Civil) No.5/2020,” said the top court.

While disposing of the plea, the top court, however granted Upadhyay liberty to file an impleadment application in another matter concerning the linkage of Aadhaar with social media platforms, which is pending before the court.

In this matter, the apex court had ordered the transfer of all pending cases from various high courts to itself. In the last hearing in this matter, on January 30, the apex court had directed the Madras High Court to send all records related to the matter to it at the earliest.

The petitioner argued that the Delhi High Court did not consider that there existed a total of around 35 million Twitter handles in India and approximately 350 million Facebook accounts, and experts reckon that around 10 per cent Twitter handles (3.5 million) and 10 per cent Facebook accounts (35 million) are fake. Upadhyay said that it is extremely difficult for a common man to distinguish between fake and real accounts.

He argued that bogus accounts are also used for proliferation of fake news which is the root cause of many riots, including the recent riots in Delhi. He contended before the top court that fake news is propagated through ghost accounts, shapes opinion and even plays a vitiating role in the context of free and fair elections.

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Realme to produce Smart TVs in India post-lockdown, flagship TVs soon

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New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Chinese smartphone brand Realme which is locally manufacturing every single smartphone that is being sold in India will begin production of its newly-launched Smart TVs in the country once the lockdown is over and situation stabilizes, Madhav Sheth, Vice President, realme and CEO, Realme India said on Monday.

The company will also launch flagship-level TVs soon, along with accessories like soundbar, in the India market.

Currently, Realme is all prepared to start surface-mount technology (SMT) production in India for its affordable smart TVs. Realme, said Sheth, is investing on a complete production line from basic components to panel assembling and SMT.

“For realme smartphones, we started our SMT assembling lines from day one and even invested Rs 300 crore towards eight new SMT lines during last Diwali season to meet the surge of consumer demands,” Sheth told IANS.

“Our commitment for Realme Smart TV will be the same. This is our commitment to bring more production to India and contribute more to our nation’s economic growth post lockdown,” Sheth added.

Taking on the market leader Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone brand Realme finally forayed into the tech-lifestyle segment with bringing its first-ever Smart TV, starting from just Rs 12,999, and Smart Watch to the Indian market.

“We don’t consider only one brand to be our competition. Rvery brand will be our competition that offers TVs in 32-inch and 43-inch category,” said Sheth, adding that Realme Smart TVs will become the benchmark for TVs in the category with infisty-leading features and specifications

Realme is looking forward to sell 8-10 million of its AIoT products in India this year that includes TV, audio accessories and wearables.

To attain the goal, it is expanding its distribution channels to tier-4 and tier-5 towns, aiming to have 400-plus distributors onboard to cover 35,000 plus mobile stores and more exclusive service centres.

The smartphone maker is also working towards strengthening its localisation strategies.

“Realme will make all efforts to become the most popular tech lifestyle brand in India. We aims to launch multiple AIoT products in 2020 around your ‘Personal, Home, and Travel’ experience,” said Sheth.

The company had a great start with realme Buds Air that was the second best-selling TWS in 2019.

“We have sold more than one million wireless headphones so far. Even as lock-down has impacted sales in Q2, we are pushing our limits to maintain growth because the market demand for smartphones is massive,” Sheth noted.

(Md Waquar Haider can be reached at [email protected])

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Motorola Razr 2 to launch in September: Top executive

The smartphone maker launched its flagship Moto Razr back in March in India at Rs 1,24,999 for the sole 6GB RAM + 128GB storage variant.

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Motorola Razr 2

New Delhi, May 23 : Lenovo-owned smartphone brand Motorola is planning to launch second generation of its foldable flagship Moto Razr in September this year.

Thibault Dousson, South Africa general manager of Lenovo, the parent company of Motorola, said during a podcast that a new generation foldable phone is coming later this year.

Dousson said: “There’s a new iteration of the Razr coming up. There is one in September, I think, coming up”.

According to media reports, Motorola is aware of the problems in the first Razr smartphone, and is working hard to improve the Motorola Razr 2.

The smartphone maker launched its flagship Moto Razr back in March in India at Rs 1,24,999 for the sole 6GB RAM + 128GB storage variant.

The phone features a 2.7-inch OLED ‘Quick View’ interactive display on the outside of the device will keep you connected.

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