India has blocked 14 mobile messenger apps apparently being used by terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir to communicate with people in Pakistan.
The blocked apps are Crypviser, Enigma, Safeswiss, Wickrme, Mediafire, Briar, BChat, Nandbox, Conion, IMO, Element, Second Line, Zangi, and Threema. These do not have representatives in India and are heavily encrypted, according to intelligence agencies, News18 reported today (May 1).
Most of these apps are specially designed to maintain users’ anonymity. They were allegedly used by people associated with various terrorist organizations.
For instance, members of the Hizbul Mujahideen and The Resistance Front, backed by Pakistan, were observed using Nandbox Messenger, a Canadian app, the News18 report said.
The rise of alternate messaging apps in India
Some of these apps do not require the internet or servers, making them ideal to use in areas like Jammu and Kashmir which face frequent internet shutdowns.
Briar Messenger, developed by Europe-based professionals, is one such.
“Briar is a messaging app designed for activists, journalists, and anyone else who needs a safe, easy and robust way to communicate,” the company website states. “Unlike traditional messaging apps, Briar doesn’t rely on a central server—messages are synchronized directly between the users’ devices.”
Some apps are free-to-use. But they all mostly have a strict policy covering user privacy—the one thing that facilitates hassle-free communication among terrorists.
“Wickr’s security architecture and proprietary encryption methodology are designed to ensure that only users can gain access to their message content. Users’ content is encrypted locally on their device and is accessible only to intended recipients,” Chris Howell, co-founder and CTO of the US-based platform Wickr told Forbes India.
India has recently blocked 14 popular mobile messenger apps in a bid to protect its citizens from security threats. Indian officials said that they were concerned that these apps were transferring users’ information to servers based in China, and that the apps posed a security risk to the country’s citizens.
The blocked apps include WeChat, UC Browser and CamScanner, which are all popular with Indian users. This is part of India’s increasing scrutiny on any apps which have links to China as part of a wider effort to ensure the nation’s cyber security.
The Indian government has stated that these apps are being blocked as “they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
The unilateral action by India follows the recent stand-off between the countries on their shared borders. There have been concerns in India about the growing tech presence in the country from Chinese companies, which are seen as an intrusion on the nation’s security.
These blocked apps join the list of 59 other Chinese apps that have already been banned such as TikTok, Weibo and Shareit. This decision might have significant economic implications for India-China trade, as the two countries share important economic ties.
All this comes as the nation is currently in the middle of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has taken various steps to increase internet usage across the country. This means India is now particularly aware of any security threats that might be posed by foreign companies.
Overall, India’s decision to block the 14 mobile messenger apps is part of a larger effort to protect its citizens from any security threats that may come from companies abroad. While the implications are not yet clear, this could have wider implications for the India-China economic relationship.