#hacking | Downloads plunge 80% as hacking row intensifies in India

The hacking row seems to have hit WhatsApp’s India business badly as its number of downloads between October 26 and November 3 declined by whopping 80 per cent to 1.8 million. The number of downloads in the preceding week (October 17-25) was 8.9 million, says the data from mobile analytics and intelligence firm Sensor Tower, reported Business Standard. While the security breach issue has dealt a body blow to the Facebook-owned company, alternative messaging platforms like Telegram and Signal are cashing in on the opportunity, and have seen a significant rise in the number of downloads in the country.

During the last week, Signal, which is an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, reported a 63 per cent rise in downloads to 9,600 in India. Telegram also saw a 10 per cent rise in downloads to 920,000, says the report. These downloads, however, do not comprise re-installs, multiple installs from sale account and updates in the apps.

Also read: WhatsApp snoopgate: Govt, military officials across 20 countries targeted through messaging app

The controversy around WhatsApp’s revelations that Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group’s spyware, known as Pegasus, exploited its vulnerabilities to snoop over 1,400 devices, including many in India, has once again stirred a debate over safety issues around Facebook Inc and its companies.

A petition has already been filed in the Supreme Court to probe into the hacking of WhatsApp users, which included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists, military and government officials.

Tightening the noose, the government has also sought suggestions from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to discuss safety issues related to e-payments service plans of social media companies like WhatsApp.

Also read: WhatsApp shared ‘technical jargon’ with govt agency; did not mention Pegasus spyware

The messaging giant on October 31 said it was suing NSO Group, that was reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities’ hack into the phones of roughly 1,400 users, spanning four continents. NSO Group has vehemently denied the allegations. WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million.

Edited by Manoj Sharma

Also read: WhatsApp snoopgate! Indian journalists, human rights activists targeted in spyware attack

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