WhatsApp downloads in India hit as news of Pegasus spyware hogs limelight
Ever since the Pegasus spyware was brought to the public eye by WhatsApp last week, downloads of the app have reportedly come down by a surprising 80 percent in India. Meanwhile, downloads of another end-to-end encrypted app, Signal have gone up by 63 percent to 9,600 during the same period. Telegram messenger (which is based in Russia and offers a secure messaging platform) also saw an increase in downloads in this period by 10 percent, hitting 9, 20,000.
According to data from mobile analytics and intelligence firm Sensor Tower (via Business Standard), the week before WhatsApp said that it would be suing NSO Group, the Israeli firm behind the malware, app downloads stood at 8.6 million. Between 26 October and 3 November, downloads came down to 1.8 million.
"One download per Apple ID or Google account, not including re-installs, installs to multiple devices owned by the same account, or app updates," according to Sensor Tower.
On 29 October, WhatsApp revealed that it was suing Israel-based NSO Group for developing the Pegasus spyware that was used to target 1,400 civil rights activists, lawyers, and journalists across the world, including several in India. However the fact remains that WhatsApp was one of the several services used to help spread Pegasus.
Although WhatsApp ensures that messaging between users on the platform is secure owing to its end-to-end encryption model, the actual contents of the messages shared are not checked. This resulted in the Pegasus spyware getting into users' phones via an infected link. This link could have been sent via SMS, MMS, Telegram, Signal, email, or any of several dozen other options.
WhatsApp has also claimed a few days back that it informed the Indian authorities about the vulnerability in May 2019. A government official however said that India's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) could not understand the magnitude of the situation as the advisory came with 'technical jargon'.
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