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The future is encrypted

Deciphering the national security and economic implications of breaking encryption.

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The pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, shifting almost the entirety of our communications, be it with the government or financial institutions, into the digital sphere. This renders the need to ensure privacy and a robust cybersecurity regime all the more crucial. A tremendous amount of economic and government activity has shifted on to online communications services, raising concerns regarding the security of our data on the platforms. With greater digitization looking increasingly likely, even more activity will be occurring through the Internet. The field of cybersecurity will continue to grow in importance with encryption being its major load-bearing pillar.

The Indian Encryption Regime

The ubiquitous utilisation of Industrial Revolution 4.0 technologies serves not only as a powerful tool for enhancing national security but also for creating new and serious vulnerabilities and security risks. Having a comprehensive national security strategy would enable the identification of critical infrastructure that may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Anticipating cyber-attacks and hardening systems against them has become even more necessary as economic and governance activities increasingly rely on digital technologies. If the privacy and security of government employees or members of financial institutions were compromised, this would pose a serious risk to our national security, making it quite clear that the privacy and security of an individual’s data is essentially the cornerstone of national security in itself. Be it the Aadhaar ecosystem, which was, in fact, secured by high-end encryption following the data leak of 7.2 crore Indians, the National Health Stack, telemedicine, online banking, e-commerce, or e-wallets, all need to be protected via high-end encryption. Recognising the importance of encryption in ensuring user privacy, data security and enabling the digital economy, Clause 24 of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which was tabled in the Parliament by the government last year, encourages data fiduciaries to use encryption. Acknowledging the importance of secure messaging, the Indian Army recently launched an in-house secure messaging platform called, “Secure Application for Internet (SAI)”. The end-to-end encrypted app highlights the importance of high-end encryption in communication. Previously, both the Draft National Encryption Policy 2015 (now withdrawn) and the Draft Intermediary Liability Guidelines 2018 (not enforced) which sought to introduce ‘traceability requirements’ in encrypted platforms received criticism from all quarters. Although law enforcement access to data is critical, it is also important to enhance the state›s capacity to conduct metadata analysis and utilise traditional surveillance capabilities more efficiently and effectively.Moreover, the government launched a competition to develop an indigenous video calling application that is also end-to-end encrypted, recognising the growing need of encryption to enhance the security and privacy of the people of India.

The Global Encryption Debate

The American government has been pushing for backdoors to encryption for quite some time now. Their latest move is the recently forwarded “EARN IT Act”. It targets the minimal liability (safe harbour) enjoyed by intermediaries. Under this act, a tech intermediary would not automatically be exempt from liability against content related to child sexual exploitation but will have to ‘earn it’. Similarly the LAED Act, 2020 mandates backdoor access to encrypted platforms for investigation in criminal and national security cases. Accordingly, tech companies might not be able to earn their liability exemption while offering endto-end encrypted services. Functionally, this would put them in the position of either having to accept liability, undermine the protection of end-to-end encryption by adding a backdoor for law enforcement access, or avoid end-to-end encryption altogether. In either case, they will end up compromising the fundamental right to free speech and the privacy of users. Recently, the Five-Eyes (US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) along with India and Japan appealed to the tech companies to create escrowed or backdoor cryptographic protocols, getting tech companies to reduce the level of encryption security they offer customers on their services in the interest of national security. Such a mandate requires the intermediary (platform) to identify the user (say, sender of a message) on the production of a legal warrant. The challenge is that, to implement such a mandate, the intermediary would have to introduce a vulnerability in the security architecture of its platform which can be exploited later, leaving our communication systems vulnerable to espionage, foreign surveillance and hacking by non-state actors and foreign governments alike. Which is why cryptographers, the global encryption coalition and Indian intelligence veterans have recommended against breaking encryption and recommended to find solutions via meaningful collaboration between law enforcement and technology companies

Encryption Enabled Digital Economy Earlier in the year, it was revealed that hacker group “Keeper” broke into at least 570 e-commerce stores globally, including India, procuring payment and card information of over 184,000 customers. This would generate nearly INR 52 crores given the prices for such information on the dark web. This group is likely to continue their assault on ecommerce platforms across the world. If strong encryption protocols are done away with and backdoor channels provided to governments, we run the risk of compromising individual privacy and rights as well as national security issues relating to the economy at large. One of the fundamental facets of the debate around privacy is the future of encryption and the controversial existence of a backdoor for applications and smartphones to allow law enforcement access to data. After five years of deliberation, taking into consideration the global stance on the issue of the regulation of OTT platforms and the deliberations at the International Telecommunications Union, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended how it is not the right time to regulate OTT platforms beyond the extent of laws already in place and recognised the need to secure encryption. It stated that mandating lawful interception by compromising encryption will render the users’ personal data susceptible to attacks by unlawful actors and, therefore, the privacy and security architecture of the OTT services must not be compromised by embedding vulnerabilities.

The Way Forward

We must be wary of nonstate actors and terror groups developing their own modes of communication services illegally. Which is why creating ‘backdoors’ to popular encryption services could lead to compromising security, as such non-actors actors would then create their own communication services, which would end up causing bigger problems for law enforcement, both in India and globally. Websites like GitHub are a storehouse of free open source software, including free high-end encryption protocols like that of Signal. Thus, the moment criminals get to know that vulnerabilities have been embedded in popular messaging platforms, they shift to their own secured platforms. Al-Qaeda developed a software called Mujahideen Secrets back in 2007 to encrypt their online communications, which was basically a friendly wrapper around publicly available PGP. This nullifies one of the main positives of this move while having a major impact on the privacy of citizens who are now susceptible to cyber-attacks owing to the introduction of vulnerability-by-design. Instead of compromising with privacy enabling and free speech promoting tools like encryption, the government must work towards building the capacity of law enforcement. Studies show that millions of CSAM reports are submitted by tech companies to the NCRB, however, only a few hundred of them are used to register FIRs. To that end, it is crucial to appreciate the exact challenges faced by law enforcement agencies with the help of reliable data. This should be complimented with a framework for enhancing the metadata analysis capabilities of LEA which would help in carrying out investigation. Such efforts must not be overcompensated by asking platforms to collect excessive data in violation of the data minimisation principles envisaged under the PDP Bill, 2019. Lastly, cross industry-academia efforts must be encouraged to build tools like PhotoDNA that can tackle abuse on the platform to an extent, without compromising end-to-end encryption These collaborative efforts are quintessential to find privacy-enabling methods of surveillance which do not render the whole population vulnerable in the name of national security, or else we might end up shooting our own leg.

Kazim Rizvi is founding director of The Dialogue, a New Delhi-based policy think tank, while Pranav Tiwari is a policy research associate at The Dialogue.

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ART EXHIBITION UNRAVELS DICHOTOMY, MULTIPLICITY OF URBAN LANDSCAPE

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On a busy Saturday evening at the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, amidst the intellectual conversations, the setting sun and the aroma of filter coffee in the air, stood a shiny white exhibition room, with huge pieces of monochromatic art hung at the walls and people silently observing them, then murmuring something and then looking again.

A new art exhibition titled ‘Layered Dichotomy’ by Delhi-based artist Shruti Binay is being presented in this room at the Triveni Gallery, Mandi House, from November 21 to 30. Shruti, a young, budding artist, through this exhibition of paintings, drawings and mixed media works, attempts to “embrace life’s multiplicity”.

Talking about what inspired this collection, Shruti told ANI, “I am fascinated with the things around me. I stay in Gurgaon, so, for me, buildings, metro bridges, structures, architecture have always fascinated me. I have simplified those structures into lines and forms. I find the urban landscape interesting because I think I see life in it. You see the fabric in some of these paintings, that gives a different kind of life to the piece. In all my paintings you will see something moving, the sense of life is there in most of them.”

She added, “I have tried to include human forms as well because that is the best way to express myself, by connecting with my own self. Most of the paintings have been liked by people and I see the ones with human forms are being liked the most, as people most easily can connect to them.”

In the exhibition the theme of the collection revolves around dichotomy, and it could be seen and reflected in varied ways from one piece to another.

“I like to play with the medium, so in my paintings, you would see different layers created, with different kinds of textures such as paper, fabric, I’ve used tea bags and paper pulp, old paper. There’s a plane surface, and then there is a textured surface as well. Somewhere there is strength and somewhere it’s all worn out. Mostly they are monochromatic, with a wash-off look…but then some colours like blues, greens, reds stand out in other places. That’s the dichotomy I’ve tried to present,” she explained.

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URANUS COLLECTS OVER 2.5 TONS OF USED COOKING OIL TO TURN IT INTO BIODIESEL

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Providing a commercially viable solution to the food industry to dispose of its used cooking oils (UCO), Uranus Oil Corp, a Chennai-based startup in renewable energy and waste management solutions, collects UCO for a price and supplies them to manufacture biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus has recently set a record by collecting over 2.5 tonnes of UCO in a month from restaurants, hostels, canteens and other similar sources in and around Chennai. UCO poses a threat to human health, when consumed, and to the environment, when dumped untreated. Hence, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Biodiesel Association of India, have recently launched the Repurpose UCO (RUCO) program, to prevent UCO from getting into the food supply chain or the environment, and to use it for producing biofuel.

Uranus is an authorised UCO aggregator, enrolled in the RUCO program. The company distributes ‘RUCO cans’ to hotels, hostels, canteens, and other such outlets to collect the UCO, and supplies the collected oil to Pan Oleo Energy Limited (formerly, DCI Limited), a large-scale biodiesel manufacturer and renewable energy company in Tamil Nadu, which converts UCO into biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus is scaling up its operations rapidly in order to collect about 15 tonnes of UCO per day by the end of 2022.

In his comments, Mr. Vasanth JB, Co-founder of Uranus Oil Corp, said, “Edible oils are the primary source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E in human diets. They are used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking and food preparations in restaurants, fast foods and households. However, when cooking oils are reheated again and again, they release toxic substances. These oils also increase free radicals in the body which in turn cause inflammation and various chronic diseases. If there is no alternative to collect UCO, they could find their way to smaller restaurants, dhabas, and street vendors or be discarded in an environmentally hazardous manner. Our model offers a commercially appealing and effective solution in this space.”

UCO is a key ingredient in making biofuel, specifically biodiesel which can be used as an alternative to conventional petrodiesel.

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Tiktok rival Lomotif launches in India

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With Tiktok’s ban in India, the country continues to witness a rise in content creators, who continue to experiment with short video formats, and apps that become a voice for them to showcase their talent, we have yet another popular US-based app: ‘Lomotif’ joins the bandwagon.

Featuring the currently popular short video format, the app has entered the Indian market at just about the right time with the space constantly evolving. Founded by Singapore-based Paul Yang in 2014, and acquired by ZASH Global Media and Entertainment, the app gives access to a global audience, and its patent technology allows users to immerse themselves in a super-engaging reel format of content. At the same time, with a comprehensive platform such as ‘Lomotif’, competitors should be alert because they are here to stand out.

Since TikTok was banned, the country has seen several local apps emerge and try to stir creators into telling their stories. LOMOTIF, firstly, does not just want the users to create their stories, but do so uniquely and in a way that will make their audience ‘move’ by just being themselves.

Secondly, they want the creators to create and foster global partnerships and that itself makes them a winner. So, with pre-build editing and mixing available and constant endeavors by the app creators to localize content for the Indian audience, we sure have a winner materialising.

‘We were very excited with the initial response to the beta testing of our app in India, which led to launching the app in India with the support from Socialkyte, our strategic partner. The content creation market is ever-growing and LOMOTIF will emerge as a platform where we can see a spirit of collaboration, build a community of creators who want to showcase their realness via their content and a source of entertainment for the viewers. I thoroughly enjoyed the launch and the response was overwhelming.’ says Ted Farnsworth, Chairman & Co-Founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment.

Gurjot Batra, Co-founder of Socialkyte says “We always believed Lomotif would be a huge success in India and to see our initial response from the Indian market even exceeded our expectations.”

Vidur Mahajan & Bharat Agarwal, co-founders of Socialkyte added, “We believe collaborations are the new economy and are very excited to bring the Lomotif platform to our creators. The app’s advanced editing tools will truly help them explore their talents”

Interestingly, with a soft launch, they have already kickstarted and initiated a dance-off challenge with none other than the Dance King himself i.e. Remo D’souza. They also had several exciting challenges executed like a #DanceRemix with Shakti Mohan spearheading the same. Several artists have already started using the app to launch their music videos.

On a side note, Socialkyte will enable access to their network of 100,000 influencers collaborating and growing together. They have a specialised dashboard with advanced filters that enables brands to find the right creators for their campaigns. With these common goals and interests, this partnership is bound to be a successful one. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s evident that their vision is simple: to get creators to create diversified and unique content to grow exponentially.

The launch this weekend was spearheaded with Ted Farnsworth, highlighting the app features alongwith popular actors like Asim Riaz, Ravi Kishen, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Adaa Khan, Vikkas Manaktala, YouTuber Anushka Sen and singer Tulsi Kumar. The launch also saw singers Shirley Sethia and Guru Randhawa rocking the stage with their performances.

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OUR USP IS TIMELESSNESS: ROHINI SINGH GUPTA, CO-FOUNDER, JUST CHIFFONS

In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Rohini Singh Gupta opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more.

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Rohini Singh Gupta, Co-founder, Just Chiffons, recently joined NewsX for an interview as a part of NewsX India A-list. In the exclusive interview, she opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more. Excerpts:

Speaking about her brand Just Chiffons, Rohini said, “Just Chiffons was started by my mother. She wanted to look for nice chiffons for herself in Indore. She could not find it in the market and so she thought she might as well design herself and started making a few. The relatives started coming in and said, ‘it looks so nice, give it to us,’ and that is how we traditionally started. Slowly and steadily, it has become a name in Indore and in India as well. “

Talking about her journey with the brand and how did she come on board, she reminisced, “I would accompany her in her errands the market and sit with her, the workers and just listen and observe. I also studied BSc so it was very different but I always have an interest in being with my mother all the time, when back home in Indore. I had that interest and slowly when I moved back to Indore after my studies, I started taking an even deeper interest. It came naturally sitting with her and talking about sarees and the colours, the designs. It came very naturally.”

When asked about the USP of Just Chiffons, “Basically, I feel our USP is timelessness. The chiffons are so versatile, yet classic. They can be worn over the period of time. It can be passed through generations. They are very elegant.”

Giving us an insight into the first exhibition of Just Chiffons and response over the years, she said “Over the years, initially people said, ‘oh this is back in fashion.’ We have actually revived it again and now they feel okay, it looks really nice. Another point is our price point. They are not that expensive and cost about 8 to 25 thousand, which is very much viable with everybody. The response has been really good. Since we have also launched our website last year and because of our Instagram and social media, it just come up. Slowly and steadily, we are gaining followers and are getting a lot of queries.”

Talking about the impact of Covid on Just Chiffons, she said, “Covid was obviously a shock for us. The first month, everything was cancelled. We didn’t know what to do but we have to look for the benefit of our artisans and our workers.”

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HUNAR HAAT CREATED NEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN: MUKHTAR NAQVI

With 300 stalls, this is the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year.

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Union Minister for Minority Affairs and Deputy Leader, Rajya Sabha, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, while speaking at the conclusion of the annual Hunar Haat event, said that the event had generated crores of rupees for artisans and craftsmen who were engaged in making indigenous products.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States & UTs participated in the 33rd Hunar Haat

Crowd around the stalls of artisans and craftsmen at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States/UTs participated in the 33rd “Hunar Haat”, organised at India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan from 14 to 27 November.

While talking to reporters on the conclusion of Hunar Haat, Naqvi said that while people purchased indigenous exquisite handmade products worth crores of rupees, the artisans and craftsmen have also received orders worth crores of rupees from national as well as international buyers.

“Hunar Haat” was also awarded the prestigious IITF2021 Silver Medal for strengthening its commitment to “Vocal for Local” and its strong presence at Trade Fair.

According to Naqvi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “mantra” of “Vocal for Local” and “Swadeshi to Swavlamban” have encouraged and promoted India’s traditional and ancestral legacy of handloom-handicraft.

With 300 stalls, this was the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year. Canara Bank had set up a stall in the “Hunar Haat” to provide easy loans to artisans and craftsmen for employment and self-employment.

Renowned artists such as Annu Kapoor, Vinod Rathore, Sudesh Bhosale, Roop Kumar Rathore and Sonali Rathore, Suresh Wadekar and Padma Wadekar, Amit Kumar, Mohit Khanna, Prem Bhatia, Osman Mir, Rekha Raaj, Vivek Mishra, Ankita Pathak, Priya Mallick, Bhupendra Singh Bhuppi, Mirza Sisters, Posh James and others made memorable spectacular performances every evening at “Hunar Haat”.

The minister said that Hunar Haat’s virtual and online platform, and GeM portal, have opened enormous opportunities for economic empowerment of artisans and craftsmen. More than 7 lakh artisans, craftsmen and people associated with them have been provided employment and employment opportunities through “Hunar Haat” in the last about 6 years.

The next “Hunar Haat” will be organised at Surat from11 to 20 December; JLN Stadium, New Delhi from 22 December 2021 to 2 January 2022. “Hunar Haats” will also be organised in Mysuru, Guwahati, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Patna, Puducherry, Mumbai, Jammu, Chennai, Chandigarh, Agra, Prayagraj, Goa, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Kota, Sikkim, Srinagar, Leh, Shillong, Ranchi, Agartala and other places in the coming days.

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Vyapar app simplifies financial management for MSMEs

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Financial management is the key to business success. There’s no refuting this fact, but despite that, many business owners are simply not careful enough.

India has approximately 6.3 Crore MSMEs which contributes about 29 percent towards the GDP through its national and international trade. 70 percent of businesses in India are Micro, Small, and Medium-sized (MSMEs), and many business owners cannot cope with their business growth. Financial asset management is one of the contributing factors. In addition to that, many of them also struggle to keep up with digital systems that are supposed to ease the process but don’t actually do so. When they cannot afford better systems, hire qualified accountants and practice better financial management, they tend to lose control of their business.

To solve this issue, Vyapar App was launched in the year 2016 with the aim of making it easier for MSME business owners to run their businesses. Accounting can take a significant amount of their time, but they have comprehensive and accurate financial reports at the tips of their fingers with the app. Vyapar App is a business accounting application that helps the user store and access all their financial data in one place. In addition to offering an accounting solution, they also provide inventory tracking, customer and vendor management, invoice generation, barcode management, online cataloging, and even order tracking features.

Using Vyapar software you can send free transaction messages, payment reminders, generate E-way bills, delivery challan, generate financial reports and much more.

By providing so many features onto one software, they’ve enabled the growth of many MSME businesses in the country. Until now, many business owners would suffer because they had to use different applications for different purposes, which would lead to increased costs and efforts. But by using this easiest one-stop solution, they can manage their finances and get creative with it.

The software offers them the option to customise their dashboard and other feature of software as per their individual requirement. MSMEs have been able to present themselves professionally and see increased business as well.

One of the key points that many of their users talk about is that when the GST filing process was introduced, it was tough to manage it since you’d need an accountant with sound financial knowledge. But now, they can retrieve GST report directly from software in government prescribed format in excel. Later they can convert the excel file to JSON format using an offline utility tool available on GST portal. User can now upload the JSON file by logging in to GST portal.

This shows how the team at Vyapar Apps has taken the concerns of their users into account and adapted the software over time.

Overall, no other service in the market simplifies business and financial management for MSME business owners the way Vyapar App does. It’s available for download on the Play Store and can be done in two languages — English and Hindi. This will be a top-notch option if you’re looking to simplify financial management and grow your business.

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