The Indian government is planning to conduct an audit of WhatsApp’s security system following the revelation that the vulnerabilities in the social messaging app were used to target a total of 1,400 WhatsApp users across the globe of which nearly 121 users hailed from India.
Government’s plans of auditing WhatsApp were announced by the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Parliament on Thursday. The Indian Computer Emergency Team (CERT-In) “sought submission of information from WhatsApp on November 9, 2019, including a need to conduct an audit and inspection of WhatsApp’s security systems and processes,” Ravi Shankar Prasad said in his statement as reported by Reuters.
While addressing the Parliament, Prasad said that while the Facebook-owned social messaging app had responded to queries by CERT, the agency had sought additional information from the company on November 26, 2019 following the company’s response to the agency’s queries on November 18, 2019. He also said that CERT had also sought information from the Israeli cyber-security firm, the NSO Group, to provide details about the impact that its malware has been used to target Indian journalists and social activists on November 26, 2019.
The Indian IT Minister also told the members of the Rajya Sabha that the Indian government along with the governments of the USA, the UK and Australia was in talks with WhatsApp to identify the source of the messages and videos that contain violence.
“If there is provocation from any messages or communal violence happens, then you would have to tell the origin, who have started it. We are having discussions with them,” Prasad said, as reported by PTI.
To recall, last month a report detailed that NSO Group’s Pegasus software had been used to exploit vulnerabilities in WhatsApp and target 1,400 people across the globe, including 121 Indians. “In May 2019 we stopped a highly sophisticated cyber attack that exploited our video calling system in order to send malware to the mobile devices of a number of WhatsApp users,” WhatsApp wrote on its official website.
Following the report, Facebook sued the NSO Group alleging that it used WhatsApp to spread malware to the phones of people across the globe which included social activists, government officials, journalists, diplomats and politicians. Shortly after NSO employees sued Facebook for blocking their private Facebook and Instagram employees.