Tag Archives: Data security in India

WHY THE BAN ON CHINESE APPS ?

  • Ayush Nadimpalli

The government of Bharat banned 59 Chinese mobile applications, including social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat, to counter the threat posed by these applications to the country’s “sovereignty and security,” it said in a press release late on June 29th. . ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps that have been blocked.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, part of the MHA, has sent an “exhaustive recommendation for blocking the malicious apps.  There are 30 Crore unique Indian users of Chinese apps installed in the 45 crore smarphone users. 

Popular apps in Bharat.

  • 3.2 crore users of TikTok.  
  • 5 Crore users of Helo App.  Both Helo and TikTok  are owned by Byte Dance.
  • 5 Crore downloads of ShareIt

While the reaction by people at large is positive, there are some pseudo intellectuals who pose questions like “ What can a ban on Apps do ? “

For this let me take you to a story of 2001.

In 2001, an Internet Service provider “Now India” launched an aggresive marketing campaign offering internet connectivity at an aggressive price. It attracted huge customer base. However, a strange fact came to light as the software was being installed. A tool called “Unicenter” was getting automatically installed as a “Remote control tourble shooting tool”.  This was not listed in the End User agreement.  Normal users could not see the tool at all.  This tool gave the service provider direct access to the personal computer of the user. When this was raised, ‘Now India’ denied and was confronted with proof.

“Now India ” turned out to be a subsidiary of a Hong Kong based group headed by an entreprenuer who had close links with Chinese establishment. “Now India” had listed a foreign participant called Pacific Convergence ( Mauritius ) ltd. Inquiries revealed that this too was a subsidiary of the same Hong Kong company . The internet traffic was being routed through the two serviers of yet another ISP and reached the gateway of another Chinese company in Hong Kong. ( Source : Will the Iron Fence Save A Tree Hollowed by Termites ? by Arun Shourie )

Sadly, when this was initially brought to the notice of the establishment, the whistle blowers were brushed away as being paranoid.

Strategic Paralysis:

Sun Tzu says ” To Fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting .” For this, they have what they term as accupressure points, points which are critical points which can destablise a nation.

China has been working to develop devices though which it can cut off leaders of the enemy counrty from the people. leaders from each other, headquarters from field commanders, field commanders from soldiers. The point is to hit the “brain, heart and nervous system” of the enemy causing strategic paralysis.  The more modern a society gets, it gets integrated systems , the more it depends on technology.  Mark A Stokes in his RAND report “China’s strategic modernisation” notes ” Engineers have conducted feasibility studies on introducing viruses ( bingdu ) into adversary’s computer systems from long distances via wireless”.

It is precisely for this reason that many of the Chinese hardware companies and apps were already banned from strategic locations in the defence, surveillance and space initiatives of Bharat

But how does usage by consumers threaten security?

The answer lies in botnet & AI.   A botnet is a string of connected computers coordinated together to perform a task. That can be maintaining a chatroom, or it can be taking control of your computer.

Botnets are the workhorses of the Internet. They’re connected computers performing a number of repetitive tasks to keep websites going. It’s most often used in connection with Internet Relay Chat.

While many botnets are legal & useful, the illegal and malicious botnets gain access to your machine through malicious coding. In a few cases, the machine is hacked, while in most cases a “spider” (a program that crawls the Internet looking for holes in security to exploit) does the hacking automatically.

More often than not, what botnets are looking to do is to add your computer to their web. That usually happens through a drive-by download or fooling you into installing a Trojan horse on your mobile / computer. Once the software is downloaded, the botnet will now contact its master computer and let it know that everything is ready to go. Now your computer, phone or tablet is entirely under the control of the person who created the botnet.  Once the botnet’s owner is in control of your computer, they usually use your machine to carry out other nefarious tasks. Common tasks executed by botnets include as per Norton anti virus:

  • Using your machine’s power to assist in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to shut down websites. 
  • Emailing spam out to millions of Internet users.
  • Generating fake Internet traffic on a third-party website for financial gain.
  • Replacing banner ads in your web browser specifically targeted at you.
  • Pop-ups ads designed to get you to pay for the removal of the botnet through a phony anti-spyware package.

The short answer is that a botnet is hijacking your computer to do what botnets do — carry out mundane tasks — faster and better. Hackers groups in China work in unison attacking enemy websites whenever they want to make a point.

Use Agreements in Apps :

In most cases, we sign user agreements, through the tab “I agree” while installing apps. This gives the company hosting the apps to get access to the data on our mobile. We give them access to phone contacts, SMS, audio files, videos and notes. Some apps also have access to the clipboard. Now, on many occasions, we copy passwords, user ids and paste. In such cases they are stored on the clipboard. Getting access to the clipboard means, getting access to our sensitive information.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning :

It is not only Chinese apps but even other companies use Artificial Intelligence to gauge consumer  behaviour. Do an experiment, Search for hotels and then leave it. After a few hours, you will get offers of discounts of hotels near you. App companies earn crores using and selling our data travel , food, clothes and other choices. In most cases, we would have already signed our agreement when we press “ I agree” in the installation.

These are the perils of over dependence of technology. It is therefore important that the software that we install on our machines & mobiles are from dependable sources which we can rely on.

One country which we cannot rely on with our data is CHINA.

Chinese Army  Invests

The Chinese army , known as PLA makes strategic business investments too. This is something that people of Bharat cannot imagine due to the structure of our Bharatiya army which is independent of politics & business.  We must be clearly aware of firms that are being offered doles for working in Chinese markets.

China uses every person that they can get their hands on – tourists, scientists, princelings, personnel of firms that are profiting from or hoping to profit from operations in China. They invest on lobbyists, journalists media  , a visit by a scientist, providing a service at a low cost . This determined pursuit as well as the method – espionage and theft using multiple sources – continues to this day.

United States of America has always been wary of the Chinese threat. The TIME magazine reports, FBI keeps a tab on over 3000 companies in US suspected of collecting information for China.

So Why Do Some “ Intellectuals” Oppose the Ban ?

China is investing 1.3 Billion US Dollars in media propaganda worldwide. A significant amount goes to journalists, foreign civil servants,  think tanks and others who are furthering the Chinese agenda.

As per a WION News report, Xinhua ( Chinese News Agency ) has 170 foreign bureaus. China radio controls 30+ radio stations in 14 countries.  China is investing in creating 100+ Global Think tanks.

We know that those pseudo intellectuals are actually on the payroll of the Chinese propaganda machinery.

While the Bharatiya armed forces will give a fitting reply to the Chinese armed forces, the little we can do is to do a stepwise lockdown on Chinese apps, software and hardware in a phased manner finding Bharatiya Or other alternatives in case we don’t have a Bharatiya alternative as of now.

List of the banned Apps

References :

  1. Will the Iron Fence Save A Tree Hollowed by Termites ?
  2. TIME Magazine

First Published in Organiser on 10th July 2020 : Link