Troops on the China border told to delete apps like WeChat, Truecaller that have been banned due to data security implications.
New Delhi: Troops posted on the China border have been told to format their smartphones and delete a number of apps that intelligence agencies have found to be detrimental to national security due to possible links to Chinese hackers.
A list of 42 applications, including popular ones such as Truecaller and WeChat, have been banned with immediate effect and all officers and men have been told to strictly comply with instructions to clean up both their official and personal mobile phones.
“According to reliable inputs, a number of Android/IOS apps developed by Chinese firms or having Chinese links are reportedly either spyware or other malicious ware. Use of these apps by our personnel can be detrimental to…national security,” the instructions sent to troops on 24 November read.
The intelligence inputs come after a spate of border transgressions by Chinese troops, including a nearly three-month standoff at Doklam that saw a massive build-up of forces by both India and China that threatened to spin out of control.
While the instructions do not contain specifics on how the applications named gather intelligence or can be used by Chinese agencies, they are clear that all personnel are advised not to “use these apps either in office or on personal mobile phones”.
“If some of them are already using any of these apps, then they should be asked to immediately uninstall the app and format their cellphones,” it reads.
The list of banned products for troops includes micro-blogging site Weibo, WeChat messenger, file transfer app Shareit, popular mobile web browser UC browser, and multiple account logger, Parallel Space. Besides, a number of applications found on popular Chinese smartphone brands are also on the banned list.
In December 2015, the defence ministry had restricted internet access and stopped the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices in South Block due to fears of attacks from Chinese hackers. Earlier, in April 2015, a Singapore-based cyber security firm claimed to have uncovered a Chinese cyber espionage network targeting Indian military, aerospace and maritime sectors with a bug named APT30.
The bug used decoy documents on Indian military movements in the South China Sea, news on indigenous aircraft carrier in Kochi and China border incidents to spread them on Indian government-controlled computers and phones.