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Net Neutrality: Decide if you want free Whatsapp, Hike, Hangout or not

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By Shilpika Srivastava

A lot is going on over the issue of net neutrality, and the growing resistance to it by Internet users.

But, have you ever really thought why the world, especially the Indians are raising a ruckus over it?

Maybe you simply allowed the issue to take a back seat in your mind, and started to watch that funny cat video on You Tube. But, do you know you might just not be able to freely and fully ‘enjoy’ the Internet, and watch that funny cat videos too, from the coming April 24?

So people, kindly lend me your eyes and minds just for a few moments, so that I can explain the sensitivity of the issue, how India’s telecom regulators are trying hard to hoodwink you. Yes, your world might just change, in twelve days!

What exactly is Net Neutrality?

According to Wikipedia, Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers and government should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, mobile application or mode of communication.

What’s the fight for?

Sometime back the telecom companies enjoyed a profitable position in the market, fetched huge revenues during a period when the mobile users in India touched a number of 800 million people. This was the time when they largely focused on selling voice minutes, but what they really did was that they used Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to connect the users with other telcos. In simple terms, they just transferred the calls through Internet.  And, its no rocket science to understand the difference of the cost between VOIP and the traditional voice calls.

Recently, what scared the telecom companies to the core was the easy accessibility to message or call someone provided by the platforms, like Whatsapp, Hangout, Hike and so on, and that too at the cost of Internet prices.

How it all started?

The argument over Net Neutrality picked up the hype when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lost its case against Comcast in the US Supreme Court in 2010. In India, a telecom giant, Airtel, planned to charge higher tariffs for phone calls (or VOIP) made through Skype or Viber on its network through Internet. This clearly breaches the principle of ‘Net Neutrality.’

No doubt, it attracted an uproar among the users that forced Airtel to withdraw the plan.

If this, happens in India, then you will have to pay for each site you visit. It will be the carrier who will have full control on your activities online. They want that ‘right’ to charge whatever they want.

For an example, Airtel may allow you to use Hike absolutely free as it is their own product, but on the other hand, they might charge you a bomb  when you share your jokes on Whatsapp.

You might not just believe that Reliance has already gone a step further with Internet.org. You can use Bing absolutely free, but have to pay when you ‘Google’ something. You have the right to share your thoughts on Facebook for fee, but not on Twitter.

Tell’em that #IndiaWantsNetNeutrality 

TRAI has framed 20 questions regarding Net Neutrality seeking answers from public and telcos based on which TRAI will take its decision. The questions can be found on pages 113 to 116 of the official consultation paper at TRAI Consultation. File your answers via an email to advqos@trai.gov.in by 24 April, 2015 (read ASAP).

If you find answering tricky, then simply sign this petition here.

This is a call to arms, a time to set your foot down and say, NO. Because, if we don’t act now, we may lose our freedom to ‘enjoy’ Internet in just 12 days.

 

Next Story

Researchers Reveal Vulnerabilities that Allowed Hackers to Manipulate Images on WhatsApp and Telegram

WhatsApp saves files to external storage automatically, while Telegram does so when the "Save to Gallery" feature is enabled

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Hackers, Images, Whatsapp
The security flaw, dubbed "Media File Jacking", affected WhatsApp for Android by default. Pixabay

If you thought instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption give you rock-solid security, think again. Researchers from cyber-security firm Symantec on Monday revealed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to manipulate the images and audio files you receive on these platforms.

The security flaw, dubbed “Media File Jacking”, affected WhatsApp for Android by default, and Telegram for Android if certain features were enabled, Symantec researchers said in a blog post.

According to the researchers, WhatsApp saves files to external storage automatically, while Telegram does so when the “Save to Gallery” feature is enabled. However, neither apps have any system in place to protect users from a Media File Jacking attack, the researchers from Symantec’s Modern OS Security team explained.

Attackers could exploit this vulnerability to scam victims in various ways.

Hackers, Images, Whatsapp
If you thought instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption give you rock-solid security, think again. Pixabay

“If the security flaw is exploited, a malicious attacker could misuse and manipulate sensitive information such as personal photos and videos, corporate documents, invoices, and voice memos,” wrote Software Engineer Alon Gat and Yair Amit, Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, Modern OS Security, Symantec.

Giving example of image manipulation, the researchers said a seemingly innocent, but actually malicious, app downloaded by a user could manipulate personal photos in near-real time and without the victim knowing.

The app runs in the background and performs a “Media File Jacking attack” while the victim uses WhatsApp. It monitors for photos received through the app, identifies faces in photos, and replaces them with something else, such as other faces or objects.

“A WhatsApp user may send a family photo to one of their contacts, but what the recipient sees is actually a modified photo. While this attack may seem trivial and just a nuisance, it shows the feasibility of manipulating images on the fly,” said the blog post.

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Using the same vulnerability, the attackers could make payment manipulation, audio message spoofing or spread fake news.

“In one of the most damaging Media File Jacking attacks, a malicious actor can manipulate an invoice sent by a vendor to a customer, to trick the customer into making a payment to an illegitimate account,” Gat and Amit wrote.

“The Media File Jacking threat is especially concerning in light of the common perception that the new generation of IM (instant messaging) apps are immune to content manipulation and privacy risks, thanks to the utilisation of security mechanisms like end-to-end encryption,” they added.

Hackers, Images, Whatsapp
Researchers from cyber-security firm Symantec on Monday revealed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to manipulate the images and audio files. Pixabay

Reports in May revealed that a bug in WhatsApp’s audio call feature allowed hackers to install spyware onto Android and iOS phones just by calling the target. The spyware was reportedly developed by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group.

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WhatsApp had said it identified and “promptly” fixed the vulnerability that could enable an attacker to insert and execute code on mobile devices. (IANS)