Info-tech

Worst fears of privacy activists have come true in 2019

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on December 30, 2019 Published on December 30, 2019

Privacy matters Storing data in electronic form has several benefits but poses security threats too istock.com pandpstock001

Internet shutdowns, security breaches, data thefts trigger worries

With their worst fears with regard to breach of privacy and intrusions into digital spaces coming true in 2019, privacy and cyber security activists expect a better year in the New Year. Attacks on digital life and private data, both by the cyber criminals and by the State agencies, are on the rise.

Alleged snooping attempts by the Government to intrude into WhatsApp accounts of civil rights activists, lawyers and journalists rocked the country a few months ago.

The year, which started off with exposure of 617 million accounts belonging to sites such as Dubsmash, Armor Games and ShareThis in the darkweb, ended with Internet shutdowns and alleged use of facial recognition technologies in some cities by the law-enforcement agencies to track down agitators towards the end of the calendar year.

The Data Protection Bill, which is supposed to provide a sense of security to private data, too has left the privacy activists seething in anger.

“The year 2019 was an important year for how India is vulnerable to cyber security. Kudankulam nuclear plant’s administrative systems were breached by North Koreans hackers. It became public the Government is spying on human rights activists using WhatsApp-Pegasus spyware,” Srinivas Kodali, a privacy rights activist, has said.

“We are back to debating what data to be collected to link more databases with NPR (National Population Register) and NRC (National Registry of Citizens) issue at the forefront of the issue. The data protection bill in Parliament supports all of this by providing exemptions to government to do anything it wants with our data,” he contended.

He also referred to the reports of police across using facial recognition systems to shoot images instead of guns, tracking down the activists.

“Hyderabad police specially has been stopping everyone on the roads to find out who they are if they even remotely look like a poor man who might steal something,” he says.

The State, he alleges, is taking away our rights. “It is getting large control of our life by policing us everywhere using surveillance systems. This better end in 2020,” he observes.

The FSMI (Free Software Movement of India) has said that reports of data breaches and data theft were on the raise. The year also showed how vulnerable the digital infrastructure of banks and social media companies, resulting in private and sensitive data of millions of users.

The FSMI felt that it’s time we demand a stronger data protection law.

Internet shutdowns

Though it has become a routine in several countries to block access Internet as part of clamp downs on protestors, the Union Government has taken this to next level by imposing Internet shutdowns in several geographies. After Kashmir, which is still under clamps on Internet, the North-Eastern States, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Delhi have witnessed similar restrictions.

Besides impacting the regular communication between people, it has also impacted businesses.

According to a telecom industry source, losses due to Internet shutdowns increased to ₹ 2.45 crore per hour by the end of 2019.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/internet-shut-downs-lead-to-losses-of-245-crore-per-hour-telcos/article30425722.ece?homepage=true

The Internet Freedom Foundation, which flags issues related to privacy and barriers to flow of information online, has said that Internet disruptions are “an issue of immense concern and threatens individual rights as well the social goals articulated by the government policy of Digital India.”

Expressing concern over the recent incidence of Internet shutdowns, Apar Gupta, Executive Director of Internet Freedom Foundation, has asked the Union Ministry of Home and Telecommunications to write to all State Governments, cautioning against indiscriminate disruptions of the Internet.

Intrusions into Privacy

An investigation led by a Canadian research institute about a State-backed snooping of rights’ activists has rocked the country. WhatsApp accounts of several Indian activists, lawyers and journalists were among the 1,400 victims across the country as State agencies reportedly deployed Pegasus malware to break into the phones of the victims.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/hyderabad-lawyer-among-snooping-victims/article29856058.ece

Top breaches

* Malware attack on the Kudankulam Nuclear Powerplant : This potentially affected the administrative network of the system.

* Pegasus malware attack on WhatsApp accounts of activists, lawyers, journalists.

* Facebook exposed the passwords of millions users

* Data belonging to millions of Instagram users leaked.

* Twitter admits a malicious code inserted into its app by a bad actor, potentially compromising information of its users.

* Over 200 Government sites made aadhaar details public

* Details of 7.82 cr users in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana found on the database of IT Grids in Hyderabad.

Published on December 30, 2019

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.