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Experts Warn that WhatsApp Pay can Put The Digital Banking System at Risk

In May, WhatsApp, which has 400 million users in India, urged its 1.5 billion global users to upgrade the app after discovering the vulnerability

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WhatsApp
Encryption on whatsapp being blamed for snooping. Pixabay

After WhatsApp accounts of 121 Indians were compromised by the Israeli spyware Pegasus, experts have warned that the payment feature the Facebook-owned platform is planning to launch in India may put the digital banking system at risk.

“WhatsApp payment needs to be seen with microscopic eye, primarily because in payment you will be dealing with sensitive personal data and cyber security is going to be an essential building block component for WhatsApp to demonstrate its due diligence,” Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts, told IANS.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has already expressed dissatisfaction over the manner WhatsApp communicated about the compromised accounts.

The piece of NSO Group software called Pegasus allegedly exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via missed calls to snoop on 1,400 users globally. The devices were compromised with just a WhatsApp video call.

In May, WhatsApp, which has 400 million users in India, urged its 1.5 billion global users to upgrade the app after discovering the vulnerability.

“WhatsApp’s recent operations have shown that it’s difficult for the government to get information from it. WhatsApp is an intermediary under the Information Technology Act and is mandated to exercise due diligence under the law. But it has failed to do due diligence,” Duggal said.

“You should not be in a hurry to grant new licences or permission to WhatsApp without being satisfied with its adherence to cyber-security norms, international best practices and Indian laws,” he said.

The Facebook-owned company is learnt to have countered the government charge that it didn’t inform it about a privacy breach on the messaging platform. WhatsApp didn’t even comply with the data breach notification law in India, Duggal said.

WhatsApp
Experts have warned that the payment feature that WhatsApp is planning to launch in India may put the digital banking system at risk. Pixabay

“It (WhatsApp) didn’t follow reasonable security practices as mandated in Section 43A of the IT Act, 2000. In fact, it abetted the crime of un-authorised access too. Granting WhatsApp pay licence should be given a second thought by the Reserve Bank of India,” said Prashant Mali, cyber lawyer at Bombay High Court.

In light of the recent hack, the government, the RBI and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is reportedly evaluating the risk of allowing social media apps into the digital payment ecosystem.

“With the government, the RBI and the NPCI planning to evaluate the risks involved in making payments via social media apps and services, the security of the UPI payment infrastructure on WhatsApp Pay has been rendered under a cloud of vulnerability,” said Salman Waris, Managing Partner at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, a law firm.

The RBI revealed in an affidavit in the Supreme Court earlier that WhatsApp had not complied with the data localisation norms. In an April 2018 circular, the RBI stated that the data of payment banking system have to physically located in India.

“The history of WhatsApp has shown that it’s not cooperative with the government in sharing of information. If financial information is compromised, it will not only have an impact on users, but it can also have an impact on the sovereignty and security of India,” Duggal said.

WhatsApp
WhatsApp is learnt to have countered the government charge that it didn’t inform it about a privacy breach on the messaging platform. Pixabay

The government must go slow till the time WhatsApp demonstrated compliance to Indian law and showed that the platform was secure, he said.

“Because almost every phone user in India is on WhatsApp, it’s all the more important for the government and the RBI to ensure that WhatsApp not only complies with the parametres of cyber -sucurity and data localisation norms, but also the IT Act and the rules and regulations thereunder.

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“If WhatsApp doesn’t comply with the data localisation norms, rules and regulations of the IT Act, then there is no question of granting new permission,” Duggal said. (IANS)

Next Story

#WhatsAppDown Trends on Twitter As Messaging App WhatsApp Faces Outrage in India

People rushed to Twitter to report the issue

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Twitter
After users reported on Twitter, WhatsApp was yet to notify users about how the problem began. Pixabay

WhatsApp users in several parts of the world, including in India, on Sunday took to Twitter to report several issues with the mobile messaging platform.

Millions of users were unable to share videos, photos and GIFs, audio and stickers and several of those said they were even unable to view WhatsApp Status feature.

According to Downdetetector.com, the problem started in the evening around 4 p.m. and alive outage map showed users in India, Europe, Brazil and in Southeast Asia were affected by the outage.

“WhatsApp is restoring the service. The server issue should be fixed now,” said WABetainfo.com, a fan website that tracks WhatsApp.

“2 min silence for the peoples who talked about the updates on last post,” tweeted one user.

“Stickers can be sent now, the service should be restored completely soon,” tweeted another.

WhatsApp was yet to notify users about how the problem began.

Twitter
#whatsappdown trended on twitter with 8,246 Tweets as a large number of reports from users stated that WhatsApp is currently down or not working. Pixabay

People rushed to Twitter to report the issue.

“Me waiting for my WhatsApp status update to actually upload. #whatsappdown,” tweeted a user.

Another joined: “RIP WhatsApp. Impossible mandate file multimedia.”

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#whatsappdown trended on twitter with 8,246 Tweets as a large number of reports from users stated that WhatsApp is currently down or not working. (IANS)