Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Ever since WhatsApp gave an ultimatum to its users for abiding by the new privacy rules or leaving the popular messaging app, an underdog has risen: Signal. The latter has been topping charts in app stores after being supported by whistleblower Edward Snowden and currently the world’s richest man, Elon Musk. Let’s see what’s the hype all about.

Crux of the Matter

Underdog Rises On App Stores
Over 1 lakh users downloaded Signal, both on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s app store whereas WhatsApp’s new downloads declined 11% after its announcement of new privacy rules.

What Is Special About It?
On Whatsapp, you have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. However, on Signal, you can use ‘Note to Self’ to jot down thoughts while messaging others.

How Secure Is It?
Like Whatsapp, Signal uses open-source Signal Protocol, for implementing End-to-End Encryption. But it goes one step further by encrypting metadata too via ‘Sealed Sender’.

What Is Sealed Sender?
It is a new way to communicate between the sender and the recipient wherein no one, including Signal, will know who is messaging whom, which ensures ultimate privacy

Which Data Does It Collect?
None. It claims to use only the mobile number for registration and doesn’t link it to the user’s identity, unlike rivals WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, etc.

It is Open Source
Signal’s source code is published for anyone to examine and use under a GPLv3 license for clients and an AGPLv3 license for the server. This means it has less potential for hidden vulnerabilities.

What’s More?
By default, Signal encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. It also supports encrypted group calls and encrypted local backup and allows disappearing messages, from 5 seconds to 1 week.

Curiopedia
  • When Facebook announced its plans to acquire WhatsApp in February 2014, WhatsApp’s founders attached a purchase price of $16 billion: $4 billion in cash and $12 billion remaining in Facebook shares. But the actual price Facebook paid was $21.8 billion, or $55 per user.
  • Brian Acton is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded WhatsApp. Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation in 2018 with initial funding of $50 million.
  • Matthew Rosenfeld, known as Moxie Marlinspike, is an American entrepreneur, cryptographer, and computer security researcher. Marlinspike is the creator of Signal, co-founder of the Signal Foundation, and currently serves as the CEO of Signal Messenger. He is also a co-author of the Signal Protocol encryption used by Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.

What’s With WhatsApp And Its Latest Privacy Policy?

What's With WhatsApp And Its Latest Privacy Policy?

Remember that you use iCloud or Google Drive to backup your WhatsApp chats? These third-party services are getting access to your messages. Now WhatsApp is gearing up to update its Terms of Service, as earlier this week it sent an in-app notification regarding its update on ‘Privacy Policy’ to users. Let’s see what has changed and what hasn’t with the messaging app.

Crux of the Matter

Let’s start by taking a look at the notification received:

What If We Don’t Agree To It?
The company’s new terms of service and privacy policy will go live on 8 February. In order to continue using the app thereafter, the users will have to agree to these rules.

What Are The Changes?
The most significant ones are how WhatsApp shares information with Facebook and its subsidiaries. Till now, existing users were provided with the option, to not share their WhatsApp account information with Facebook. 

The Hardware Information Collected

  • Battery level
  • Signal strength
  • App version
  • Browser information
  • Mobile network
  • Connection information (phone number and ISP)
  • IP address
  • Device operations information

Where Will This Data Be Located?
Whatsapp says it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers for data storage, including the ones in the US. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy. It also says that in some cases, data will be transferred to the other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based, adding that “these transfers are necessary to provide the global Services set forth in our Terms.”

Will Our Messages Remain Encrypted?
Yes, Whatsapp stays end-to-end encrypted i.e it can’t see your messages, or share it with anyone. This is because the data is encrypted on the sender’s device, so only the recipient can decrypt it.

Then What About Payments?
WhatsApp states that if we use their payments services they will “process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.” The WhatsApp Payments feature in India, anyways has its own privacy policy. On being rolled out last year, National Payments Corporation of India had taken measures to stop it from monopolising digital payments.

Data Collected By Other Messenger Apps

  • Signal – claims to only use mobile number for registration and not link it to the user’s identity.
  • iMessage – Email address, Phone number, Search history and Device ID.
  • Telegram – Name, Phone number, Contacts and User ID.

Curiopedia
  • WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. First released in 2011, it became the world’s largest standalone mobile app in 2018, with over 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat has been described as China’s “app for everything” and a “super app” because of its wide range of functions.
  • On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its terms of use that caused a widespread outcry from its user base. The controversial clause stated: “you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you“. The move garnered severe criticism from privacy advocates as well as consumers. After one day, Instagram apologized saying that it would remove the controversial language from its terms of use.
  • Terms and Conditions May Apply is a documentary that addresses how corporations and the government utilize the information that users provide when agreeing to browse a website, install an application, or purchase goods online. Made in 2013 by Cullen Hoback, it discusses the language used in user-service agreements on the World Wide Web, and how online service providers collect and use users’ and customers’ information.

What’s Up With WhatsApp: Disappearing Messages & More

What's Up With WhatsApp: Disappearing Messages & More

The Facebook-owned app, WhatsApp has been in the news this year with its multiple, interesting updates from muting messages forever to getting a nod from NPCI for WhatsApp Pay in India. The latest update of WhatsApp of disappearing messages is currently trending amongst all tech enthusiasts. So how does it compare with other messaging apps? Will there be a multidevice support as well?

Crux of the Matter

Messages Disappear After 7 Days
WhatsApp finally launched the much-awaited Disappearing or Ephemeral feature last week, wherein after a time limit of seven days, the message gets automatically deleted. It is available for both individual and group chats. In the latter, only the group admins will be able to enable the feature.

What’s The Need?
Whatsapp wants “to make conversations feel as close to in-person as possible, which means they shouldn’t have to stick around forever”. The feature will be rolled out to its 2-billion plus user base in both Android and iOS devices.

Does The Other Facebook-Owned App Have This Feature?
Yes, Instagram has a disappearing “photo and video” messaging feature, that was launched in February 2018. It gives users an option to let their chat partners “view once”, “allow replay” multiple times for a limited period, or “keep in chat” always. This year, the disappearing text messages feature was launched in the form of “Unsend” message.

Let’s have a look at how disappearing messages feature of WhatsApp And Telegram is different.

Silence Your Chats Forever
This is now present on both iOS and Android devices, along with WhatsApp web. To mute a chat forever, open the chat, tap on the menu option on the top right, and select Mute notifications. You will see the following:

Other Successful Additions This Year
Due to the ongoing pandemic, lots of misinformation was becoming viral. So Whatsapp had limited the forwarding of such messages that have sent through a chain of 5 or more people, to be only forwarded to a single person thereafter. Additionally, a search button was added to help users debunk such information by searching quickly on the web.

Rumoured Multi-Device Support?
Whatsapp has reportedly designed a new UI to link devices to an account. As per Wabetainfo, there is a “Link device” button is used to create a new session with WhatsApp Web. This can be used to create sessions with other devices in the future.

Curiopedia
  • Square, Inc. is an American financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company. The company was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey and launched its first app and service in 2010. It has been traded as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange since November 2015 with the ticker symbol SQ.
  • Brian Acton is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He was formerly employed at Yahoo!, and co-founded WhatsApp. He has a net worth of $2.5 Billion.
  • Whatsapp became the world’s most popular messaging application by 2015, and has over 2 billion users worldwide as of February 2020. It has become the primary means of electronic communication in multiple countries and locations, including Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, and large parts of Europe and Africa.

WhatsApp Pay Gets NPCI Nod After 2 Years

WhatsApp Pay Gets NPCI Nod After 2 Years

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) gave nod to WhatsApp Pay after 2 long years. However, it will face competition from Google Pay and Phone Pe. WhatsApp is poised to enter into India’s UPI market – that reached all time high transaction volume and amount in September 2020 – after NPCI announced a 30% cap on market share of any third party UPI app.

Crux of the Matter

What is WhatsApp Pay?
On 6th November 2020, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) announced that WhatsApp can rollout WhatsApp Pay in India. Presently, it can be used by only Indian numbers linked to Indian bank accounts. WhatsApp with international numbers cannot use it.

A full-fledged rollout of WhatsApp Pay was not approved for over two years due to concerns over its data storage policy in India and over-sharing of data with Facebook.

Comparison To WeChat Pay
The payment function of Tencent-owned WeChat was launched in 2014 during Lunar New Year in China. It can be used even if you don’t have a Chinese bank account, by linking debit/credit cards. WeChat was banned by India over privacy concerns.

NPCI Norms
Right after WhatsApp nod, NPCI set a cap of 30% on total volume of UPI transactions processed by Third Party App (TPA) providers like Google Pay, Phone Pe, Paytm, etc. This norm will come into effect by January 2021. The TPAs that have more than a 30% share will have a two year period to comply in a phased manner.

Reportedly, NPCI has done this in an attempt to give equal opportunity to all the UPI payment apps. Presently Google Pay and PhonePe dominate the UPI entities.

Presently, WhatsApp has been given permission by the NPCI to go ahead with its rollout in only a phased manner. It will be allowed to roll out in several phases with a maximum of 20 million registered UPI users. The bottomline is that WhatsApp Pay comes at a time when UPI transactions (volume and amount both) hit an all-time high in India.

You can have a look at this interactive chart to know more about UPI payments’ volume and amount in India.

Curiopedia
  • Square, Inc. is an American financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company. The company was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey and launched its first app and service in 2010. It has been traded as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange since November 2015 with the ticker symbol SQ.
  • Brian Acton is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He was formerly employed at Yahoo!, and co-founded WhatsApp. He has a net worth of $2.5 Billion.
  • Whatsapp became the world’s most popular messaging application by 2015, and has over 2 billion users worldwide as of February 2020. It has become the primary means of electronic communication in multiple countries and locations, including Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, and large parts of Europe and Africa.

WhatsApp Warned Over Spyware As Centre Mulling Over Data Protection Bill

The Indian Government has warned WhatsApp to fortify the security and said that it will ‘not tolerate‘ any such breaches in the future. IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Personal Data Protection Bill is set to be proposed soon.

Crux of the Matter
  • India has sought a report from WhatsApp over the Pegasus spyware attack that hacked mobile phones of 121 prominent Indian citizens.
  • Minister brought to the notice that a ‘vulnerability note‘ was issued by the Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-In) on 17th May 2019.
  • On 20th May 2019, WhatsApp had informed CERT-In in writing that it had fixed a vulnerability that may allow remote control of one’s device.
  • IT Minister Ravi Shankar mentioned that were adequate laws in place to counter hacking and spyware and that a new bill protecting personal data of users is expected to be proposed.
Curiopedia

WhatsApp End-to-End Encryption – On April 5, 2016, WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems announced that they had finished adding end-to-end encryption to “every form of communication” on WhatsApp, and that users could now verify each other’s keys. Users were also given the option to enable a trust on first use mechanism in order to be notified if a correspondent’s key changes. According to a white paper that was released along with the announcement, WhatsApp messages are encrypted with the Signal Protocol. WhatsApp calls are encrypted with SRTP, and all client-server communications are “layered within a separate encrypted channel”. Read More