Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Are Social Networking sites threat to National Security?


Man is a social animal and is naturally communicative.  And we find this nature especially pronounced in a country like India. Indians are generally outspoken, ready to share and care. For this reason, not surprisingly, the social networking sites have always been a big hit in India, possibly growing at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.  Along with its popularity, the social networking medium also runs a high security risk for the user, as no messaging service can be stated to be 100% safe, secure and impenetrable. A service considered secure today could prove to be vulnerable tomorrow. Technology professionals are constantly casting aspersions on the security mechanism available, and are never confident about the fool-proof security strength of any technology.

WhatsApp, in its official website says, “confidentiality and security are laid down in our DNA”.  It adds that from the very first day it helps “you stay in touch with your friends, share vital information during a disaster, reunite divorced families….share personal moments …we have built-in encryption”.  It claims that the photos, videos, calls and documents shared over WhatsApp are protected against unauthorised access.  It adds that it does not store the messages on its servers.  But the flip side is that this very assurance raises the concern of governments and investigators, engaged in solving and arresting cyber-crime and combating cyber terrorism.

There are interesting debates about lack of security in social networking sites, especially WhatsApp.  In fact, there is a lurking fear as to whether one can eavesdrop on WhatsApp calls (i.e. intercepted and accessed) even though WhatsApp assures that the chats and calls are end-to-end encrypted. This assurance raises the comfort level of WhatsApp users in the sense that even if anyone tries to intercept messages using stealth technology, he would not be able to read (i.e. understand) the message.  In technical parlance, it means that any chat message in WhatsApp travels in an encrypted mode, i.e. not in plain text. It can be decoded and understood only with the help of a specific decryption methodology only.  The comfort one gets from this assurance is that even if anyone tries to intercept using technology, he would not be able to read (i.e. understand) the message. 

On the flip side, however, this privacy of messages (which cannot be intercepted by anyone) can be a major threat to the security of a country. Often , there is criticism  that security is breached as terrorists and anti-nationals exploit these private networking media to exchange security-threatening messages and instructions among themselves. Fortunately, there are software tools that can be used for mobile data recovery. These tools can also access WhatsApp data including stored text and pictures, even if they have been ‘deleted’.

Of late, there have been many other messenger services emerging, to compete with WhatsApp, such as Telegram, which is gaining popularity. Telegram initially came up with the unique feature of self-deleting the message in the recipient’s device too, within a few seconds after the message is sent and received at the other end.  Recently, WhatsApp too added this facility of ‘delete’ or ‘revoke’ after the message has been sent. Although it is touted as a useful tool, it is an added nightmare for cyber-crime investigators because the evidence of messages exchanged between criminals and terrorists could then be destroyed.

And so, the debate continues on the question: “Which is supreme – the priority of the nation’s security and sovereignty, OR individual data privacy”?  The judiciary has repeatedly held that the nation’s security is always supreme and of paramount importance, compared to individual privacy and data security. With the Data Privacy Act being discussed for immediate introduction, one hopes that the legislative provisions will be in place, removing ambiguity in the interpretation of what individual privacy is, and what national security and sovereignty is.  India, as a nation in its fast-paced progress in the digital world, anxiously awaits. 


By V. Rajendran, Editor, PreSense
(Source: November 2017 issue of ezine PreSense - Editorial)

1 comment:

  1. I am regular reader of your blog and no doubt it all stuff is awesome. The best thing about your sharing and posting is that you always provide content that is helpful for both the newbie and experts. Looking for more stuff and tutorials.
    sales pop master free
    sales pop by autoketing
    koi Nhật

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...