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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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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS

Article 51-A (g) says that citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. Also, there are several wildlife protection Acts. Yet, we have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals.

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India, being the land of sages, has always believed in ahimsa and equality for all living beings. The Constitution of India itself lays down in Article 51-A (g) that Indian citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. In the furtherance of it, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 was enacted along with Wildlife (Protection) (WP) Act. However, in the past few years, we, as humans, have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals. The testament to this is the growing reports of animals being subjected to sexual abuse, being burnt alive, acid and pebble attacks, thrown off from the rooftop, lit crackers on their tails, and even cutting them down in marble cutter, the list is endless and horrendous. How have we stooped down so low that we are finding our entertainment in torturing voiceless beings? 

PREVENTION OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on us to safeguard the wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures as a result of which the PCA Act was laid down as a measure to give rights of freedom and living to animals. The act was made in 1960 shows how little has been done since then. Unfortunately, in our country, the discussion related to animal rights revolves around political arcades, primarily cow slaughter or beef ban and protection for endangered species. Many animal lovers have been helping by rescuing and providing shelter homes, medication, and food to the tiny beings but for a collective measure, a well-executed law has to be made to safeguard the interest of animals.  

The PCA Act in Section 11 defines cruelty and lists a series of offences and prescribes punishment for the same. However, the act lacks basic connotation with today’s time and needs strict amendments. Disturbingly, the punishment for treating animals cruelly is punishable with a fine of Rs 10 that may extend to Rs 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs 25 that may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. Performing operations like Phooka or any other operations to improve lactation which is injurious to the health of the animal is punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both and experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.

The WP Act too provides lists of species of both flora and fauna which need to the protected from increasing commercialisation of animal goods in form of trading of endangered species, uses of their skin for beauty products, selling off their horns in the black market and further being used in medical by-products. The law brings all these malpractices under its supervision. The act also controls the hunting of wild animals, protection of national parks and sanctuaries, restrict the illegal trade of wild animals, and articles. Section 39 specifies that any wild hunted animal found, killed, fed, alive, or dead shall be the property of the state government. Likewise, Section 9 of the act prohibits the hunting of wild birds.

JUDICIAL APPROACH

Our legislative provisions and judicial pronouncements make an effective case for animal rights. But since no rights and laws can be absolute, regulation of animal rights is a must. Therefore, time and again judicial pronouncements have become voices of the animals and their rights.

In 2014, Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in decisions banning the bull-taming festival ‘Jallikattu’ can be described as a watershed moment in terms of animal rights. It not only recognised that animals have a constitutional right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to dignity and fair treatment.

In a landmark judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was observed that “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”, touching the matter of animal rights in the purview of Fundamental Rights.

The latest judgment by Delhi High Court states that stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. The Court observed that “we have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.”

In 2006, the Bombay High Court passed an important ruling, wherein any film meant for public viewing in which animal is used or filmed, has to obtain a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. It safeguards animals from being exploited or ill-treated during filmmaking.

In 2014, Supreme Court banned the illegal transport of cattle to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival that played a crucial role in bringing down the number of animals sacrificed that year.

VIABLE ALTERNATIVES 

The Central government has already initiated the process of amendment of the PCA Act and other viable alternatives are being made for safeguarding the interest of animals at large. Some of the observations are as under:

In the present scenario of Covid-19, when every country is researching making successful medication and vaccines to end this pandemic, millions of mice, cats, dogs, rabbits etc are the ones on whom the trial is being done. This kind of horrible environment exposes animal cruelty. Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India. But this subject needs more attention in today’s time. The present legislation in India needs to be modified by making more stringent laws.

Over the years illegal trafficking and poaching of animals across the borders have led to overexploitation of certain species to the point that their survival has become difficult and caused further cruelty to them. Wildlife resources must be managed sustainably and conserved by the law. For which the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under sections 428 and 429 constitutes that killing, poaching or torturing animals is a cognisable offence and is required immediate FIR and rigorous imprisonment which may extend to up to five years or fine or both.  

There should be finer and stricter rules implemented for the transportation of livestock in India. The amended motor vehicle rule is one such step in this direction which provides that vehicles without special licenses for such transportation should not be ply on roads and a healthy and safe environment should be provided to these animals. The excessive overloading of animals, permanent partition for transportation of individual animals, health checks up can be some of the additions. 

Shelter homes are the need of the hour. An animal that has been mistreated needs support and sometimes immediate for which there should be shelter homes with viable facilities. There should be proper checks and regulations with timely inspection of these shelter homes.

There should be 24/7 medical centres for animals, especially domesticated pets.

The PETA India suggested some regulations mandating the use of anaesthetics before castration and replacement of cruel practices. 

The PCA Act needs refined and stern punishment. The drafted bill has increased the fine three times the cost of animals or Rs 75,000 with the imprisonment of three years that may extend to five or both, has been proposed. 

Steps should be taken for the protection of ‘’dignity of the creature’’ like the law laid down in Switzerland which deemed activities degrading to the dignity of animals forbidden by law.

In many cases reported in India, the barking of dogs has been a cause of beating them and often owners try to stop dogs from barking. This should be considered illegal and pet owners should learn how to take care of their pets.

Registration of pets has become a mandate across the country. This is a huge step for making society pet friendly. Effective implementation of registration should be done and non–compliance to register should be met with dire consequences. People too should be responsible and help the government in this.

As per WP Act, there are some wild and endangered animals not just lions and tigers but a lot of exotic animals are banned to pet or keep domesticated. The reason for this is that these animals enjoy their natural habitats and can’t survive or properly nurture at our homes. We should not play down with the rule of the land and also report such incidents to the authorities at the earliest. 

The issue of animal rights revolves around the question of whether animals should be given the same protections as humans. They should be treated with the utmost respect, care, and love. Animals should not be considered helpless and voiceless beings. In a society, where we all talk about how to be civilised, we buffoon the idea that animals are meant to be caged. There are a lot of things we can do to protect animals. You don’t have to own a pet to help in the cause. Let’s all be the voice they wish they had, and make the choice they wish they could. Stop animal cruelty.

The writer is an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh. The views expressed are personal.

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I WANTED TO BUILD A PLATFORM THAT COULD HELP OVER A MILLION PEOPLE: RANGANATH THOTA

Fueladream.com is the only crowdfunding platform in the world that funds social causes, products and creative ideas, said its founder and CEO Ranganath Thota during an exclusive interview with NewsX.

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Ranganath Thota is the Founder & CEO of FuelAdream and is doing social entrepreneurship via this platform. Thota in an exclusive interview with NewsX India A-list said “The objective is to try and build something that could help over a million people and the only way you could do it is through this concept called Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding means the act of several people coming together to fund something that they believe in.”

The switch from a media person to a social entrepreneur was because of a turning point that happened six years ago. Thota said, “I used to be in the corporate world for about 30 years where I worked across consumer products, media, worked in India, China, South-east Asia. About six years back, I realised I was making a lot of money and it was not as gratifying as I thought it should be. I realised that helping others was more satisfying and meaningful. I sold everything and decided to start this crowdfunding platform. I read about it for half an hour, discovered what it is and moved to Bangalore six years back.”

When asked what sets it apart from other competitors, he said, “What we discovered is that when people fund creative and innovative ideas, they are overwhelmed and passionate about it and that’s why they support it. Similarly when they fund something for a social need, then they have compassion. You have compassion at one end and passion at the other. But in many cases, people are the same. So, for example, we could fund the education for a child and also something as an electric bike.”

Speaking about one of his innovations, Thota said, “For example, there is a smart wallet with a chip in it that connects to the phone. If you lose your wallet you can call it with your phone and if you lose your phone you can call it with your wallet. You can use the phone camera and take pictures using the wallet. This project was funded four years ago. But the same person will help people with cataract surgery and education. So the same person can be driven by compassion and passion.”

He added, “The second thing is about giving behaviours. In social media, we talk about the food we eat, the holidays we take and the pictures we like but we never talk about giving. It is never understood. But there is a huge science in consumer behaviour related to giving which is very different. Crowdfunding also has a science and has four key elements that go into it. It includes storytelling, technology, consumer behaviour and most importantly, communication. Unless you know all this, you cannot do crowdfunding. The other thing we do is teach crowdfunding to a large number of people. They could be corporate people, students, etc.”

When asked about how he builds rapport, Thota said, “Nine out of ten people don’t know how to crowdfund even if their intention is good. They need a lot of hand rolling and that is where I and my team support them. The other important thing is raising funds. There are a lot of things that we need to understand about the projects that need fundraising. A lot of people come to us with great projects but what they don’t realise is that if they raise five times the amount that they are planning to, they actually cannot execute it. Unlike other platforms where you can start a campaign in an hour, with us it takes two days.”

Talking about the success rate he said, “typically it is about 70%. But if some projects don’t work well it is simply because the person doing it doesn’t manage it well, it is not like the story is not good.”

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ISRAEL MINISTER TO DISCUSS PEGASUS IN FRANCE VISIT

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JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an “update” on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday. A Ministry statement said Gantz will leave Wednesday for talks with French Defence Minister Florence Parly on topics including the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Pegasus malware made by the Israeli firm NSO, which was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron. Pegasus, which is able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data, is at the centre of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to human rights groups. Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Le Monde, to analyse and publish the list. Macron had to change his phone and number. Israel’s defence ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector. Israel’s defence establishment has set up a committee to review the firm’s business, including the process through which export licenses are granted. Pegasus’s list of alleged targets includes at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders. NSO insists its software is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes and says it exports to 45 countries.

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NORTH, SOUTH KOREA AGREE TO RESTORE SEVERED COMMUNICATION LINKS

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SEOUL: North and South Korea restored their cross-border communication lines that had been severed for over a year, the South Korean presidential office said on Tuesday.

An official statement said that the two Koreas decided to resume their direct communication hotlines as of 10:00 am local time. This comes 13 months after North Korea cut off all communication lines with South Korea in protest over Seoul’s supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the communist nation, Yonhap reported.

Since June last year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cut off ties in protest against Seoul’s inability to stop civic activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the DPRK.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters several times since April to communicate about issues on the restored inter-Korean relations, the statement said.

Moon and Kim agreed first to restore the severed inter-Korean communication lines, the statement read. The two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust and enhance inter-Korean ties at the earliest.

Seoul said the resumed inter-Korean communication lines would play a positive role in the improvement and the development of inter-Korean relations.

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