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Questions Raised On End-to-End Encryption Of WhatsApp For Snooping

End-to-end encryption on Whatsapp is being blamed for the Israeli spyware Pegasus

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Encryption on whatsapp being blamed for snooping. Pixabay

If we blame end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp for the Israeli spyware Pegasus that affected 1,400 select users of the Facebook-owned messaging app globally, including 121 in India, we will be barking up the wrong tree, say experts.

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages. But the piece of NSO Group software exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via missed calls to snoop on the selected users.

This raised questions about the utility of encryption, which also prohibits security agencies from tracing the origin of messages. Traceability of WhatsApp messages is a key demand that India has put forward.

But security experts have warned that blaming end-to-end encryption for the spyware would not be right.

“WhatsApp as well as other leading instant messaging apps have recently adopted an end-to-end encryption. The encryption process itself is solid, messages that leave your device are encrypted and they stay that way until they reach their final destination,” Yaniv Balmas, Head of Cyber Research, Check Point Software Technologies, told IANS.

“However, on your device, as well as on the receiving device the messages are decrypted so you can read them. A malicious application running on your device can inspect them, change or delete them just as well as you could. So the issue here is not in the applications or in their encryption protocol, but in the environment they are installed in,” Balmas said.

According to leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, end-to-end encrypted apps (E2EE) do provide security, and messages or calls cannot be intercepted and decrypted en route without enormous computing resources.

“But once anyone can get to your handset, whether a human or a piece of software, the encryption doesn’t matter any more. Because on your handset, it’s all decrypted,” he explained.

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

“There’s plain text on your screen, and plain audio or video in your camera. The right kind of spyware in your handset can read those messages or even listen in on your phone’s mic to what someone is saying in the room, or see what’s happening around, with the camera.

“If that happens then all apps are affected, not just WhatsApp. The spyware doesn’t care about the app — it just reads the screen. So, the recent incident has not changed the fact that E2EE apps/platforms are secure. Or the fact that spyware on your handset (which has many vectors: this time it was WhatsApp, but it is usually SMS or email) can compromise your entire handset and all its apps,” Roy said.

In his memoir “Permanent Record”, whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote that the Internet is currently more secure now than it was in 2013, especially given the sudden global recognition of the need for encrypted tools and apps.

Snowden, who served as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), rocked the world in 2013 after he revealed that the US was secretly building a way to collect the data of every person in the world, including phone calls, text messages and email.

“Perhaps the most important private sector change occurred when businesses throughout the world set about switching their website platforms, replacing http (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) with the encrypted https (the S signifies security), which helps prevent third party interception of Web traffic,” Snowden wrote.

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Balmas agreed the move to embrace encryption by chat applications marked a “good progress” in terms of user security and privacy.

“The encryption is solid and the algorithms behave as expected, however risks are still there, especially ones that originate from the surrounding operating system, which cannot be controlled or expected by any of the instant messaging software providers,” he said. (IANS)

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OnePlus Rolls Out Support for Netflix App for its TVs

OnePlus TV update brings support for Netflix

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Chinese Technology OnePlus rolls out support for netflix app for its TVs. Pixabay

Chinese technology company OnePlus on Monday announced that it has started rolling out another update for its TVs which brings official support for the Netflix app.

The Netflix app will come pre-installed for new users and will be made available through an update for existing users in the OnePlus TV 55 Q1 and OnePlus TV 55 Q1 Pro TVs.

“We at OnePlus have always sought to provide the best possible technology on all our devices. Over the years, Netflix has played an important role in bringing an unmatched viewing experience on our smartphones, said Vikas Agarwal, General Manager,” OnePlus India said in a statement.

“The association opens up a whole new world of possibilities, empowering storytellers on Netflix to expand into a whole new avenue for delivering diverse stories,” Agarwal added.

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The Netflix app will come pre-installed for new users. Pixabay

Powered by Android TV, the 55-inch OnePlus TV houses 4K QLED display combined with Dolby Vision and a powerful 50W 8-speaker setup rendering a surreal surround sound experience.

As part of OnePlus completing 6 years since its inception, the company is also rolling out offers on its TVs as an extension of gratitude to its community.

The offer includes an instant cashback upto Rs 5,000 on all transactions using HDFC credit and debit cards and cashback of upto Rs 6000 on purchase through Amazon Pay

Additional Rs 3,000 off on exchange on purchase of the OnePlus TV, along with no cost EMI for up to 24 months

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Users can experience the recently launched TVs at the OnePlus Experience Stores in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Pune.

The OnePlus TV starts at Rs. 69,900 and is currently available for purchase on Amazon.in and across 100+ offline outlets of Reliance Digital across the top 12 cities in India. (IANS)