India asks troops to uninstall Chinese apps over security concerns
Amid reports about Chinese apps being used to steal user data, India has asked its troops along the 4,057km-long LAC to uninstall 42 apps including WeChat, Truecaller, UC News and UC Browser and format their smartphones. This follows inputs that foreign intelligence agencies, especially those in Beijing and Islamabad, are using such apps to gain unauthorized access and steal data from smartphones.
The list of banned apps
The list of banned apps includes some popular ones, mostly Chinese, like ShareIt, MI Store, DU Privacy and Baidu Map. Though the advisory doesn't mention how these apps steal data, it instructs troops not to "use these apps either in office or on personal mobile phones". "Use of these apps by our personnel can be detrimental to national security," a report said.
Not the first such advisory by Indian armed forces
The armed forces regularly issue guidelines to protect against espionage. In April'15, a Singapore-based security firm reported a Chinese spy network was using the APT30 bug to target Indian security forces. In December'15, the Defense Ministry banned the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices in South Block to thwart Chinese hacking attempts. The Air Force had also asked personnel to not use Xiaomi devices.
Even common citizens are at risk of Chinese spying attempts
In August, the government sent notices to 21 smartphone makers including Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO and Gionee for allegedly stealing users' personal information. Recently, a UK-based software engineer reported OnePlus is illegally accessing and stealing user data. Chinese companies have a major hold on the Indian IT industry, worth about $22bn, which the government feels can be misused.
Development comes ten days after first meeting since Doklam standoff
This comes ten days after New Delhi and Beijing held their first meeting to discuss border issues since the resolution of the Doklam crisis. It was also the first since President Xi Jinping started his second five-year term as the chief of the Communist Party of China. Both sides reviewed the situation in all sectors of the border and discussed confidence-building measures.