Why Were TikTok and 58 Other Chinese Apps Banned?

Why Were TikTok and 58 Other Chinese Apps banned?

As per an official notice circulated by Ministry of Home Affairs, TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps have been banned from Monday evening by Ministry of Electronics and IT. They further added how these apps violated the privacy of Indian citizens. This move has further added fuel to the fire felt between Indo-China at Galwan face-off and trade war.

Crux of the Matter

Which Apps Are No Longer With Us?
The most popular ones to be banned and that can take a big hit for the Chinese firms include:
Social Media apps like Byte Dance’s TikTok, that considers India as its biggest market, and Halo
Community and Video Call apps like Designed by Xiaomi, India’s top smartphone vendor
Utility apps like UC Browser, ES File Explorer, Clean Master, CamScanner
Beauty apps like YouCam Makeup and Beauty Plus
Cross-platform sharing app like ShareIt, Xender, and E-Commerce app Shein
News apps like Newsdog, UC News, QQ Newsfeed
Games like Clash of Kings, Mobile Legends
Communication apps like WeChat, WeMeet
Photo & video apps like Sweet Selfie, Wonder Camera, Viva Video
Security apps like QQ Security Center, and DU Privacy

Why Did They Do It
These apps developed in China were called out for “engaging in activities that were prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity to India, defence of India and security of the state and public order.”

Long story short, there were reports of a security breach and data privacy violations from citizens in responses received by Computer Emergency Response Team. (CERT-IN)

Who All Will Be Affected?
According to a mobile insights firm, 27 of these apps were in India’s most downloaded 1000 apps last month.

What Did TikTok Do?
With TikTok having more than 120 million monthly active users, their fanbase would be most affected unless given an alternative. However what the disappointed fans don’t know is how their data was secretly being transferred to servers outside India, in an unauthorized manner.

What Did TikTok Really Do?
Recently, TikTok faced backlash for videos on domestic violence, animal cruelty, racism, and objectification of women on the platform. A Reddit user bangorlol, who claimed to have reverse engineered TikTok, said “It is a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device…well they are using it”. The user also claims that TikTok snoops on users’ GPS location and also it can remotely change logging capabilities without user permission. Apple recently discovered that TikTok was accessing the users’ clipboard data. So if the user copied any text or image anywhere on the phone, TikTok accessed it.

Rising Tensions
Since 5 May 2020, Indian and Chinese Army troops have been engaging in violent face-offs at locations along the Sino-Indian border. Subsequently, International trade between India and China has been affected by the suspension of business deals and halting goods at ports in both countries.

This has been highlighted with #BoycottChina movement rampant online that calls for a boycott of Chinese Goods and urges consumers to buy the ones made in India.

  • In 2018, ByteDance shutdown its first product Neihan Duanzi after the Chinese govt strongly criticized it for “triggering strong sentiments of resentment among internet users”.
  • Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming accepted that the app was incommensurate with socialist core values, promised to deepen cooperation to promote govt policies.
  • It also said that it would hire Chinese Communist Party members and increase its censors to 10,000 employees.

Hacklab Solutions Combatting Covid-19

Hacklab Solutions Combatting Covid-19

With the world seeking new and innovative ways to stage a silent yet strong fight against Covid-19 with advanced technological tools, an industrial safety automation firm named Hacklab Industrial Solutions is doing its part back at home.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Hacklab Solutions?
Hacklab is a rising industrial safety automation provider company based out of Bangalore, India. Since its inception three years ago, it has designed and developed a range of products that enhance the safety of employees, operating in modern workplace environments. It is a mere 10 member team that has solved 50+ problems till date with its primary expertise in IoT, Robotics and AI.

SAFFR Approach of Smart Safety Solutions is followed, Source: Hacklab

What Helps Them?
Internet of Things (IoT): In order to collect data and control machines that ensure the safety of personnel and machines in all plausible situations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Smart Algorithms that analyze videos from existing CCTV Setup and alert the workers about real-time violations detected in the workplace.

Cloud Intelligence: The fleet management system depicts near-misses and reduces life-threatening events via significant data points.

We developed a great partnership with Hacklab Solutions and their dedication to our safety is evident in all aspects. We appreciate the expertise they bring in to improve our overall safety standards.


Maintain Physical Distance For They Are Watching You
Hacklabs has realised how difficult it is for workers to stay away from their daily discussions and coffee hangouts, even in times of Covid-19.

Social Surveillance System, Source: Hacklab

So in order to make them maintain a social distance of 6ft, a surveillance camera is set up everywhere across a particular firm. The data from the video analytics is collected and transferred to the central server where supervisors can reprimand or take action on the defaulters.

What Are TRACKR Tags?
CCTV surveillance works only in places where the camera can be installed. In order to constantly remind people of any new human presence around them, TRACKR Tags are set up on all the workers’ helmets or pockets. They beep on crossing the 6ft distance with the other.

TRACKR Tags go wherever they go, Source: Hacklab

Contact Tracing That Keeps You Up To Date
There is a central server that automatically sends alerts to workers at risk via SMS and email notifications whenever an employee is notified to be infected. The safe workers are segregated from the workers in the vicinity of the sick worker and are thus not notified, to save them from unnecessary panic.

Automating Symptomatic People Detection
In order to prevent sick people from entering the office premises itself, thermal cameras are installed at the gate. Since fever is one of the major symptoms of Covid-19, cameras have an advanced image processing software that identifies such potential carriers.

Real-time thermal screening, Source: Smart Cities World

It can screen 60+ people per min, which ensures speedy and efficient scanning. Add on features include face recognition and face mask detection.

Auto-Sanitization For The 20-second Rule Defaulters
Since the SARS-COV-2 virus can exist for long periods of time on surfaces and can thus remain aerosolized in closed areas like lifts, the Auto-UV Sanitization technique is good for a large volume of people co-existing in a workplace.

Consisting of Motion Sensors, Voice Alarm, and Red Light, the system exposes people only to an optimum level of UV Rays and disinfects areas in the absence of human presence in the sanitization area. UV-Oven cleans items like masks, hospital PPEs, tools, and even basics including groceries.

  • The main concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coca-Cola vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first Internet-connected appliance, able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold or not.
  • The term “Internet of Things” was likely coined by Kevin Ashton, MIT’s Auto-ID Center, in 1999, though he prefers the phrase “Internet for things”. At that point, he viewed radio-frequency identification (RFID) as essential to the Internet of things, which would allow computers to manage all individual things.
  • An early mechanical CCTV system was developed in June 1927 by Russian physicist Léon Theremin. Originally requested by the Soviet of Labor and Defense, the system consisted of a manually-operated scanning-transmitting camera and wireless shortwave transmitter and receiver, with a resolution of a hundred lines.

Hacking Attacks: The Next Gen Warfare

Hacking Attacks: The Next Gen Warfare

As per reports by Cyber Intelligence firm Cyfirma, there are 10-day old conversations on Dark Web forums regarding notorious China based groups – Gothic and Stone Panda, making India the next target of hacking attacks. How far will have they gone in their cyber-warfare plans and what is China’s next move internationally?

Crux of the Matter

What Lurks Behind The Dark Web?
The dark web is part of the World Wide Web content that is not indexed by regular Search engines and requires specific software and configurations as authorization of access. Thus, it can be an easy hideout for dangerous underground communities such as pornography, drugs, hiring hitmen, etc.

Cyber-attacks form a core component of 5th Generation Warfare: propaganda and information war.

China Cooking Revenge Plans?
Several government agencies, media houses, pharmaceutical companies, telecom operators, and a large tyre company in India are on the bull’s eye of a cyberattack by Chinese hacker groups. Their specific targets seemed three central government ministries – Foreign Affairs, Defence, Information and Broadcasting.

Notorius Plans?
This angry plan comes after a violent face-off between India and China earlier this week, a first in 45 years. Twenty Indian and around forty-five Chinese soldiers lost their lives in the clash and others were injured.

Mandarin and Cantonese hacker forums started talking about teaching a lesson to India, pointedly the media houses that have been critical of the Chinese army. Meanwhile, on the Indian front, a boycott China movement has taken pace, which urges consumers to stop buying products made and exported by China.

40,000 Attacks In Just 5 Days?
Maharashtra police’s cyber wing collected information about more than 40,000 hacking attempts, on India’s Information Technology infrastructure and banking sector, in just a matter of five days from 18-23 June. Most of them originated from the Chengdu area in China.

What Are The Two Evil Pandas?
Gothic Panda and Stone Panda came out as the two prominent groups behind such hacking plans, that have a direct affiliation to the People’s Liberation Army. Gothic Panda is an expert in targetting strategic sectors like defense, aerospace, telecom, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and engineering. Stone Panda has a past track record of carrying out secret trade theft and stealing supply chain information. 

Virtual Torment
Both groups actively involve themselves in targeting organizations in countries around the world including India, Japan, the US, Canada, Brazil and Australia. The most common attacks ranging from defacing websites by using a weakness in web applications to data exfiltration using specialized malware. 

Then there can be a denial of service and impersonating companies’ websites and launching malicious phishing campaigns, on top of it. The US and other western countries have long accused China of aggressive espionage, an act of spying and obtaining secret or confidential information, without the permission of the holder of the information.

‘Anonymous’ Online Activists In US
In light of #BlackLivesMatter movement that started in the US after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, hacker group Anonymous’ accounts have pledged their support to protestors against police brutality and racism.

The tweets and Facebook posts in which they highlighted their support, have been seen millions of times, and are repeatedly shared on social media platforms.

Covid-19 Themed Phishing Plans
There were reports of a Covid-19 themed phishing campaign by North Korean state hackers, which was predicted to target six nations including India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan the UK, and the US on June 21.

The attack was a part of the Lazarus Group’s plan against 50 lakh individuals and businesses, including small and large enterprises.

  • A black hat hacker is a hacker who violates computer security for personal gain or maliciousness. The black hat/white hat terminology originates in the Western genre of popular American culture, in which black and white hats denote villainous and heroic cowboys respectively.
  • Activities of playful cleverness can be said to have “hack value” and therefore the term “hacks” came about, with early examples including pranks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) done by students to demonstrate their technical aptitude and cleverness. Therefore, the hacker culture originally emerged in academia in the 1960s around the MIT.
  • Anonymous is a decentralized international activist/hacktivist movement that is widely known for its various cyber attacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology. The name Anonymous itself is inspired by the perceived anonymity under which users post images and comments on the Internet.

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA is all set to fly a drone-like helicopter in the atmosphere of the red planet. The craft named Ingenuity, will hitch a ride to Mars aboard the Perseverance lander, making it the first experimental flight on another planet.

Crux of the Matter

Ingenuity – The Mars Helicopter
The Ingenuity craft is a wheeled, robotic rover that has a mission to drive across the planet’s rugged surface. It will launch from Earth this summer, with the touchdown scheduled for 18 February 2021 on Mars. The craft is 50 cm high with four blades, mounted on twin, counter-rotating rotors covering 1.2 m. The size of the rotors was needed to be huge enough to fly in Mars’s thin atmosphere.

How Good A Photographer Is Ingenuity
Ingenuity carries a black-and-white navigation camera and images are beamed by short-range radio links to Perseverance, which then relays them to one of the  NASA spacecrafts in Mars orbit. Subsequently, they are transmitted back to Earth. Dr. Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says multiple images can then be stitched into a panorama using ground software tools.

The helicopter attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, will be deployed onto the Martian surface. Source: JPL

What Is The Mission
The rover’s mission is astrobiological i.e it will search for signs of past microbial life. It will then characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future passage back to Earth.

The helicopter’s main focus would be to return engineering data from the test flights that will provide valuable feedback to refine future designs and pave way for further human exploration of Mars. The primary plan is for it to complete five flights over a period of 30 days for now.

Part Of The Bigger Picture?
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

This is just the beginning. Source: NASA
  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. The laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft and has managed all four successful robotically operated Mars rovers.
  • Mars Cube One (or MarCO) was a Mars flyby mission that consisted of two nano spacecraft, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that provided a real-time communications link to Earth. The two spacecraft were nicknamed by JPL engineers as WALL-E and EVE in reference to the main characters in the animated film WALL-E.
  • The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film starring Matt Damon. The film depicts an astronaut’s lone struggle to survive on Mars after being left behind, and efforts to rescue him and bring him home to Earth.

Dexamethasone – The New WHO-approved COVID Buster

Dexamethasone - The New WHO-approved COVID Buster

Recent UK trials have touted an anti-inflammatory drug called dexamethasone as a ground-breaking treatment for serious COVID-19 cases. Reports also state that it could reduce death rates to up to one-third.

Crux of the Matter

Wait, Is It Dexa-metha-sone?
Coronavirus disease triggers inflammation in the patient’s body as he/she tries to fight it with the help of their immune system. At times, the immune system goes into overdrive and causes a fatal reaction. Consequently, the response designed to attack infection ends up attacking the body’s own cells. Dexamethasone is a steroid that is designed to act like a hormone in the body and thus calms this effect.

Does It Work The Same For All?
Dexamethasone is a medicine that acts as a steroid that reduces inflammation, by mirroring anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the patient’s body. Thus the drug does not work on people with comparatively milder symptoms, as suppressing their immune system at an early stage of the infection spread, would not be helpful. It’s considered most useful for the worst COVID-hit hospitalized patients, who are on ventilators.

The Trial And Its Results
The Recovery (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 therapy) trial was conducted by the University of Oxford. 2,100 patients received a 6mg daily dose of dexamethasone in the test run for 10 days. Their progress was equated with a random sample of about 4,300 patients, who claimed to receive no additional treatment. The results clearly stated how Dexamethasone could prevent one in three deaths for patients on mechanical ventilation and one in five, for the ones on just oxygen supply.

Why Is It The Chosen One?
First made in 1957, Dexamethasone is a low-cost drug as it already exists and is thus in good supply across the world. Additionally, the UK government has stockpiled enough drug supply to treat 200,000 people. The drug is estimated to cost from £5.40 a day per patient, with a regular COVID-19 treatment known to be of 10 days.

What Is Its Reception Worldwide?
WHO has given the thumbs up of approval for the trial results. They further added how the next move on their part would be creating more therapies for COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms. The drug is manufactured mainly in South Africa, where more than 5K people have died of COVID-19. Its government has started issuing medical orders for its real-time implementation in their hospitals.

But Are There Any Side Effects?
Common side effects include anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, and fluid retention while rarer side effects could be eye disorders, blurred vision, and hemorrhage. However, coronavirus patients shall need a limited dosage of the drug, which would limit the side effects as well.

Difference Between Vaccine And Drug
A vaccine acts as a prevention against any bacteria or virus. It is like an agent that protects your body from becoming sick, by injection of weakened antibodies. This helps in building long-term immunity. A drug is a substance that works as a medicine to treat a person infected by the disease and acts as an immediate treatment. To underline the difference, it can be said that Vaccine builds immunity and drug treats symptoms of a disease.

Drugs Tried Out For COVID-19

  • Antiprotozoal Chloroquine drug used to treat malaria is approved for emergency use by the US FDA.
  • Anti-viral Favilavir was the first approved COVID-19 drug in China while Anti-viral FabiFlu was the first oral drug approved in India.
  • Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat Ebola, is approved in India to treat mild cases. Tocilizumab, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is now being used in Mumbai Hospitals.
  • Covifor is a drug available in injectable form.

  • Dexamethasone was first made in 1957 by Philip Showalter Hench and was approved for medical use in 1961. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2017, it was the 321st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than one million prescriptions.
  • The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML), contains the medications considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. The first list was published in 1977 and included 208 medications.
  • Dexamethasone and most glucocorticoids are banned by sporting bodies including the World Anti-Doping Agency. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA; French: Agence mondiale antidopage, AMA) is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports.