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India is one of the biggest markets for Chinese smartphones with Vivo, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Lenovo dominating the market. Not just phones, but Chinese apps like Truecaller and WeChat are also popular in India. However, recently certain troops of the Indian Army were asked to delete few Chinese apps due to the risk of a data attack.
The Intelligence Bureau (IB) ordered the troops at the Indo-China border to delete close to 40 apps on their smartphones to prevent cyberattacks. The Deputy Minister of India issued an advisory to avert the chances of China tracking down and monitoring the location of these troops using the specified apps. The use of these apps by Indian security troops could cause a big security threat because the master servers of these apps are located in China. Some of the apps that have been ordered to be deleted are WeChat, Truecaller, Weibo, and Shareit.
What had happened earlier?
This is not the first time that such a warning has been issued by the government and intelligence agencies. In 2012, India had faced a huge cyberattack when confidential information pertaining the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was compromised.
In December 2015, due to the same fear of the Chinese hackers, the defence ministry had restricted access to internet and banned the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices, as per a report in ThePrint.
What can happen?
Several apps allow developers to enable and check phone locations, view their photos, and even listen in through the microphone at all times. This data could be easily misused during a conflict and cause security issues.
Question of security
Intelligence agencies believe that such apps are ‘detrimental to data security’ and pose a huge threat to national security. The Intelligence Bureau had advised the troops not only to delete those apps, but also to reset their devices altogether. It will help get rid of any backend processes or files on the soldiers' phones.
India is constantly working on its cybersecurity measures. However, it is also essential for the Indian IT industry to come up with solutions addressing the cybersecurity issues specific to our country.