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By Nishant Arora
So you have decided to open a Telegram account in the wake of the WhatsApp-NSO group spyware incident that affected 1,400 select users globally, including some in India. Some of you may even be attempting to join the chat app Signal for that elusive security that, unfortunately, was never there in the first place.
Take this seriously: Encryption is fundamentally flawed and once hackers get to know any vulnerability or bug in the app security ecosystem, including the mobile operating system, your personal data is at their mercy.
When you joined WhatsApp, end-to-end encryption was there and yet, a third-party spyware, Pegasus, found a backdoor entry to snoop on you. Now, you are looking to take shelter in other so-called secure chat apps.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp is the leader among chat apps having 1.5 billion global users with 400 million of them in India. Russia-headquartered Telegram has 200 million users globally, while Signal has more than 10 million (according to Google Play Store downloads). Both Telegram and Signal record a spike in users whenever there is a security breach or global outage with WhatsApp.
Unlike WhatsApp and Apple iMessage, Telegram conversations aren’t encrypted end-to-end by default. Instead, you have to select the “Secret Chat” feature for an extra layer of security. But even that does not ensure a safety net.
A recent research paper from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) listed striking flaws in Telegram — founded in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov. Telegram uses its own proprietary messaging protocol called “MTProto”, which lacks scrutiny from outside cryptographers.
Telegram follows a conventional approach of using a Cloud storage for its data.
“This means that if an adversary is able to gain control of their server system, they will have access to (at least) unencrypted messages and definitely to all the metadata,” wrote MIT researchers Hayk Saribekyan and Akaki Margvelashvili.
Telegram initially asks for the contact list from the phone/desktop and stores them in their servers.
“This provides huge social network information for them that can either be attacked on their servers or can be possibly sold to different authorities without users’ consent,” the researchers added.
The truth is: There will always be loopholes for governments, nation-state bad actors or individual hackers to snoop on you.
“Viruses like Pegasus affect the operating system of the mobile phone and the security provided by these messaging apps is rendered ineffective,” said Virag Gupta, a lawyer who is arguing the case in Supreme Court for data localisation in India.
“Apart from the government, privacy is threatened by private Internet companies and apps, even though they claim the data is encrypted,” Gupta told IANS.
Pegasus has been designed by Israel-based NSO Group to intercept communications sent to and from a device, “including communications over iMessage, Skype, Telegram, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and others”.
According to MIT researchers, even while using the “Secret Chat” to communicate, Telegram’s mobile application makes it possible for the third parties to observe the metadata information.
“For example, adversaries can learn when users go online or offline with down-to-the-second accuracy. Telegram does not require agreement from both parties to set up the communication between them. For this reason, an attacker might connect to the user and they will receive the metadata information without the user knowing anything about this,” the MIT team elaborated.
According to leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, when WhatsApp discovered the Pegasus attack, it quickly fixed the vulnerability, informed users whom it could trace the hack to, informed the relevant governments and initiated legal proceedings against the spyware’s creators in the US federal court.
“Unlike WhatsApp/Facebook, competitors Signal or Telegram are unlikely to have the resources to do any or all of these in response to a bug. At the most, they’d fix the bug,” Roy told IANS.
Are the existing alternatives like Telegram and Signal any better?
“They are not necessarily better. Yes, hackers and governments may pay less attention to Telegram and Signal because of their smaller base. And Signal is open-source, so techies can check the code for vulnerabilities and fixes.
“But there is a lot of value to a company tackling the issue and reporting it to users and governments promptly and transparently, as WhatsApp did,” Roy noted.
According to Anoop Mishra, one of India’s leading social media experts, as long as third-party players are out there, chat apps will remain at risk, be it Signal or Telegram.
“This is an era of information war and whosoever has the information — personal or otherwise — is at the risk of losing it. End-to-end encryption does not work, if there are vulnerabilities in the operating system,” Mishra told IANS.
Roy added: “Barring privacy-conscious activists, I do not expect to see a big exodus from WhatsApp, at least not for this reason.”
Next time when Telegram or Signal are hacked for whatever reason, which chat app do you have on your mind? (IANS)
Clean beauty products are making inroads and have gained a significant share of the beauty market, with more more people becoming aware of the their benefits. With each passing year thanks to technology, research and development natural ingredients have finally regained their place in the spotlight. Don't take our word for it, beauty icons Kriti Sanon and Shanaya Kapoor also believe in natural and clean beauty products, and associate with the 'Naturali' range launched by RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. The new age nature-inspired personal care brand aims to provide a one-of-a kind experience to their customer infused with trendy natural ingredients delivering quick visible results.
Hair care ambassador Kriti Sanon said, 'I am extremely thrilled to be associating with Naturali haircare range that is infused with modern, trendy natural ingredients which are free from harmful chemicals. I have always been an ardent supporter of the 'no nasties' proposition when it comes to my hair care needs, hence this association came very naturally to me. Everyone knows that natural products are supposed to be good for you, but they are often believed to be slow in giving results. Naturali changes this, as the range has a unique SuperBlend of complementary natural ingredients, that are optimized to give you quick visible results. As a woman myself, I strongly believe that no woman should ever have to compromise especially with respect to her beauty choices. So, it is extremely fulfilling to see a brand that is not only good for you being free from harmful chemicals but also makes you look good.'
Clean beauty products are making inroads and have gained a significant share of the beauty market, with more more people becoming aware of the their benefits. | Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Bollywood debutante and skincare ambassador Shanaya Kapoor said, 'It is exhilarating to be associated with Naturali Skincare range. It's a brand that I feel complements my personality and I'm sure, just like me, a lot of young women are going to instantly connect with it. It's trendy, unapologetic, true to its claims, and most importantly takes charge. What resonated with me the most was the fresh take Naturali offers on nature-based skincare, the exciting ingredients - Avocado, Tea Tree, Red Raspberry coupled with the free from harmful chemicals promise. As someone who's had to deal with her fair share of skin problems like pimples while growing up, I am certain this range is going to be very useful for girls out there and I can't wait for them to try it out!'
Shashwat Goenka, Sector Head, Retail & FMCG said, 'There has been a paradigm shift in how Indian consumers, especially the younger, more conscious generation, engage with beauty products today. They are looking for a holistic and transparent approach towards beauty and wellness that is result-oriented. However, despite there being a burgeoning rise in the demand for natural beauty products, the personal care 'free from nasties' segment is still underpenetrated in terms of mass, affordable players. And that's where we come in - Naturali, a personal care brand infused with natural ingredients that are efficacious and free from harmful chemicals. The range is also available at pocket-friendly price points to the masses, a first for the segment."
He further added, 'We are very glad to announce Kriti Sanon as the face of the Naturali haircare range while Shanaya Kapoor represents the skincare offerings. We are a new, bold, and trendy brand and we wanted to associate with individuals who could help bring out and advocate these values. Kriti and Shanaya are a perfect choice as both are young, vivacious, and personally, resonates with our natural first proposition.'
The brand is backed by a SuperBlend technology that offers a combination of two modern, efficacious, natural ingredients like Avocado and Charcoal, Moringa and Avocado, Red Onion and Bhringaraj, Tea Tree & Avocado amongst others.
(Article originally published by: N. Lothungbeni) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Beauty, skincare, Kriti Sanon, Shanaya Kapoor, clean beauty
Children are often seen running around singing "London Bridge is Falling", and making a face of sadness when they reach the last line. Most people assume that the Fair Lady referred to in the rhyme is the Queen of England, and the current queen at that. But the history behind this rhyme goes farther back in time than we realize.
Speculation associated with this rhyme has to do with a process call immurement. Immurement was when a person was enclosed in a room with no exit points. This was more an act of superstition than punishment. It was believed to bring sturdiness to the structure if people were imprisoned behind the walls. London Bridge falling down was something that people at the time associated with weakness. But there is no evidence to substantiate the idea of immurement.
The Bridge of yesteryear London Image source: wikimedia commons
A more historical account states that the bridge fell as a result of a Viking attack. Vikings of Norway have a similar set of rhymes that associate their role in bringing down the Bridge of London. They sing of conquest and gold, and blessings from Odin, in Norse, which refers to the Bridge. King Olaf II is credited with this feat.
Most historians, unable to properly supply evidence of the above claims, state that perhaps the Thames River is the reason this rhyme came into existence. The original London Bridge had 19 arches that went deep into the river. This caused difficulty in navigation. The Bridge was taken down and reconstructed to accommodate boats and ships. Perhaps, it was this historical reconstruction that is being sung about. The London Bridge is the only one that directly refers to a historical event, and yet has no plausible evidence to support it.
Keywords: Rhymes, London, Bridge, History, Viking, Immurement
Atop the Vindhyagiri hills in Karnataka, a 57-foot-tall statue stands. This is the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, or Bahubali, as he is known to the local patrons. The surrounding area is filled with temples where each of the many Jain Tirthankaras sits.
Sharavanabelagola is named after a pond that is located at the foothills. 'Bel' in Kannada means white, and 'kola' means pond. This is a sacred water body to the activities of the temples. It is a tourist attraction and a pilgrim destination located 85 kilometres from Mysore, and 145 kilometres from the capital, Bangalore.
The pond that Sharavanabelagola is named after Image source: wikimedia commons
Since the statue is placed at such a great height, pilgrims are made to make a journey to the top of the hill by foot. They are required to climb the stone steps barefoot as an act of piety and devotion. Palanquins are offered only to senior citizens who wish to worship at the temple.
In 3 B.C, when India was ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya became a Jain monk and took up residence in the Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri hills. He is supposedly responsible for the establishment of the temple complex at Shravanabelagola, where he lived till he died. Later on, his grandson, Ashoka made some additional changes to the place.
A shop in the tourist section that sells handmade items Image source: wikimedia commons
Every twelve years, a Mahamastabhisheka is conducted, and Jains from every part congregate to witness it. The statue is washed with water, rice flour, sugarcane juice, saffrom, sandalwood paste, gold, and silver flowers, curd, ghee, milk, and turmeric, and all the monks offer special prayers. The surrounding temples and rocks are preserved as archaeological wonders owing to the 800 edicts and inscriptions found here which span 600 to 1830.
Keywords: Shravanabelagola, Jainism, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Karnataka