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Whatsapp Spyware: Users Mulling Migration to Other Messaging Platforms Such as Signal and Telegram

Chief among them is Edward Snowden, the most famous whistleblower in the world

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Whatsapp, Spyware, Users
Signal, on the other hand, has garnered support from many influential privacy advocates. Pixabay

With the shocking revelation that WhatsApp of many Indian journalists and activists was compromised, social media is now abuzz with users mulling a migration to other messaging platforms such as Signal and Telegram.

Like WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, Signal and Telegram too offer end-to-end encryption.

But soon after the news broke that a bug in WhatsApp’s audio call feature allowed hackers to install spyware onto Android and iOS phones just by calling the target, Pavel Durov, the Russian founder of Telegram, said that WhatsApp will continue to be open to surveillance despite the end-to-end encryption feature.

Signal, on the other hand, has garnered support from many influential privacy advocates. Chief among them is Edward Snowden, the most famous whistleblower in the world.

Whatsapp, Spyware, Users
Like WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, Signal and Telegram too offer end-to-end encryption. Pixabay

In fact, the encryption protocol developed by Signal is even utilised by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Co-founded by American entrepreneur Moxie Marlinspike, Signal is an open source project supported by grants and donations. Until last year, the project had an average of 2.3 full-time software developers.

But in February 2018, Signal got the backing from Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp who left WhatsApp and Facebook in 2017. Acton pumped in $50 million in funding into the project to create the Signal Messenger non-profit organisation.

Launched about four years ago, the messaging service allows both Android and iOS users to send text, document, and picture messages, as well as make voice and video calls. It is also available on desktop.

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“For users looking to use alternate apps, @signalapp is one of the safest options. It is completely open source (WhatsApp uses the encryption technology developed by Signal). It doesn’t store metadata. Recommended by @Snowden Backed by @brianacton (WA co-founder),” Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in), a Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services body, said in tweet in the wake of the WhatsApp spyware controversy.

However, according to Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at market research firm CMR, no messaging app can provide 100 per cent protection.

“Any app that talks over the Internet would be prone to potential vulnerabilities. The recent episode involving WhatsApp has exposed its limitations around its end-to-end encryption. From consumer perspective, there is very little they can do as no messaging app is bulletproof. The onus remains on developers to constantly update and secure apps from vulnerabilities,” he said.

“In the interim, apps such as Signal and Telegram benefit from migration of concerned consumers moving away from WhatsApp,” Ram added.

Whatsapp, Spyware, Users
But soon after the news broke that a bug in WhatsApp’s audio call feature allowed hackers to install spyware onto Android and iOS phones just by calling the target, Pavel Durov, the Russian founder of Telegram. Pixabay

The spyware on WhatsApp was reportedly developed by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. WhatApp said that it quickly “resolved” the security issue in May and and notified relevant Indian and international government authorities.

Launching a scathing attack on the Facebook-owned messaging app after the vulnerability became public, Telegram founder Durov said that everytime WhatsApp has to fix a critical vulnerability in their app, a new one seems to appear in its place.

“All of their security issues are conveniently suitable for surveillance, and look and work a lot like backdoors,” Durov wrote in a lengthy post.

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“In almost six years of its existence, Telegram didn’t have any major data leak or security flaw of the kind WhatsApp demonstrates every few months,” said Durov. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook, Instagram Down Again, Users Clueless: Report

The biggest outage Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram faced was in March that lasted for more than 14 hours. Facebook blamed a 'database' overload for the problem

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Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are displayed on an iPhone, March 13, 2019, in New York. VOA

Users from different parts of the world took to Twitter on Tuesday to report problems using Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, including several parts in the US and the UK.

According to Downdetector website which monitors online outages, the outages did not appear to hit the entire Facebook network but several areas reported disruption in services.

While 63 per cent reported a total blackout, 19 per cent had problems in logging in while 16 per cent faced problems with their News Feed.

“Facebook always getting hacked and now disabled… Why can’t Facebook work right. I can’t get on my new account because it was disabled,” posted an user.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

“Okay, is Facebook Messenger down?” posted another. Users said the Facebook app failed to send or load messages.

The social networking platform was yet to identify or comment on the latest outage.

Also Read: Tech Giant Google Acquires Enterprise Software Firm ‘CloudSimple’

Facebook and Instagram suffered a total outage in the UK and in some parts of Europe in September as thousands of users went on to Twitter to complain about not being able to use the social media platforms.

The biggest outage Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram faced was in March that lasted for more than 14 hours. Facebook blamed a ‘database’ overload for the problem. (IANS)