Wednesday November 20, 2019
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New Australia Bill Gives Police Power to Spy on WhatsApp Messages

The spying powers are limited to only "serious offences" such as preventing terrorism and tackling organised crime in Australia, dailymail.co.uk reported

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WhatsApp's moderators should have been able to find these groups and put a stop to them

Australia is mulling a strict law that gives enforcement agencies power to track messages on platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that offer end-to-end encryption and also to force users to open their smartphones when demanded, a media report said.

The controversial encryption bill comes at a time amid allegations of encrypted platforms facilitating spread of rumours, hate speech and even criminal activities like child trafficking and drugs businesses.

In countries like India messages circulated in WhatsApp have been linked to several lynching cases, forcing the government to ask platform to take suitable preventive action.

But the new Australia bill also raises privacy concerns as under the proposed legislation, the Australian government agencies could compel companies to build spyware.

The proposed laws could force companies to remove electronic protections, assist government agencies in accessing material from a suspect’s device, and in getting technical information such as design specifications to help in an investigation, News.com.au reported on Wednesday.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Critics have slammed the bill for being broad in scope, vague and potentially damaging to the security of the global digital economy, the report said, adding that a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has been scrutinising the bill.

The laws will help security agencies nab terrorists, child sex offenders and other serious criminals, Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter was quoted as saying.

Also Read- Rahul Gandhi Accuses Narendra Modi of Questioning Patel’s Vision

About 95 per cent of people currently being surveilled by security agencies are using encrypted messages, he added.

The spying powers are limited to only “serious offences” such as preventing terrorism and tackling organised crime in Australia, dailymail.co.uk reported. (IANS)

Next Story

No User Data Affected From New MP4 File Bug, Claims WhatsApp

The RCE vulnerability may allow hackers to perform the attack remotely without any sort of authentication

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FILE - The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration. VOA

WhatsApp on Monday said no user data was affected owing to a new bug where a specially-crafted malicious MP4 file may have used the vulnerability to trigger the remote code execution (RCE) and denial of service (DoS) cyber attack when downloaded by a user on both Android and iOS devices.

Reports on Sunday claimed that hackers can use the WhatsApp vulnerability to deploy the malware on the user’s device to steal sensitive files and snoop on them — the way an Israeli software Pegasus developed by cyber intelligence company NSO Group did by exploiting the video calling system in the Facebook-owned to snoop on 1,400 selected users globally and in India, including human rights activists and journalists.

“WhatsApp is constantly working to improve the security of our service. We make public, reports on potential issues we have fixed consistent with industry-best practices. In this instance, there is no reason to believe users were impacted,” a company spokesperson said in a statement shared with IANS.

The micro-blogging platform has already issued a security update on this bug.

Facebook had earlier issued an advisory, saying “a stack-based buffer overflow could be triggered in WhatsApp by sending a specially-crafted MP4 file to a WhatsApp user.”

“The issue was present in parsing the elementary stream metadata of an MP4 file and could result in a DoS or RCE.”

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Security experts have warned that blaming Whatsapp for the spyware would not be right. Pixabay

The vulnerability is classified as “critical” severity that affected an unknown code block of the component MP4 File Handler in WhatsApp.

The Pegasus-NSO Group issue snowballed into a political one, with the Indian government directing WhatsApp to submit a reply over the matter.

The government also denied either purchasing or planning to purchase the infamous software in question.

Also Read: Social Media Giant Facebook Still a Fertile Ground for Promoting Anti-vaccine Posts

The new vulnerability is found in Android versions prior to 2.19.274; iOS versions prior to 2.19.100; Enterprise Client versions prior to 2.25.3; Business for Android versions prior to 2.19.104; Business for iOS versions prior to 2.19.100; and Windows Phone versions before and including 2.18.368.

The RCE vulnerability may allow hackers to perform the attack remotely without any sort of authentication. (IANS)