Tuesday November 19, 2019
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Protests Erupt in Lebanon Over Tax Proposal on Free WhatsApp Calls: Report

Many were also concerned that it was not only designed to boost tax revenue, but also a way to monitor communications and restrict freedom of speech and protests," the report mentioned

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whatsapp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Protests erupted in Lebanon over plans for the introduction of a tax on calls made over the Internet using the WhatsApp messenger and similar apps.

Lebanon’s cabinet decided to impose a fee on voice/video calls made on WhatsApp and other apps to raise revenues as demonstrators and police clashed on Thursday against the move, according to Arab News.

The government later backed down from the plan to levy 20 cent per day tax on WhatsApp calls as people vented their anger in the second nation-wide protests in less than a month.

Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah on Thursday said the cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications that include FaceTime, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

“We are poor people. Why are they preying upon us? We had free WhatsApp calls — why do they want us to pay the internet bill twice?” One person was quoted as saying.

whatsapp, paytm, UPI-based Pay service
FILE – The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration. VOA

“The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country’s estimated 3.5 million VoIP users,” the report said.

The tax proposal met with anger, especially among young people and those from low-income groups.

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Protesters packed roads from Riad Al-Solh Square in central Beirut all the way to Martyrs Square, chanting “Revolution” and “The people want to take down the regime.”

“Many were also concerned that it was not only designed to boost tax revenue, but also a way to monitor communications and restrict freedom of speech and protests,” the report mentioned. (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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whatsapp, paytm, UPI-based Pay service
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.

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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)