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Will Launch Of WhatsApp Pay Get Delayed Due To Concerns Over Spyware Attack? The Indian government will discuss risks of allowing social media companies to offer online payment services with RBI and NPCI

By Shreya Ganguly

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Amid the ongoing chaos over the WhatsApp spyware attack, the Indian government is now looking to discuss with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) about the risks of allowing social media companies to offer online payment services, according to an Economic Times report.

This move may mean a further delay for the launch of WhatsApp Pay in India which has already been under the scrutiny of the Indian government over the compliance of data localisation rules. The launch of WhatsApp Pay has been delayed for over a year after the Indian government said that the service can be only launched after WhatsApp opens an office in India and hires team here. While WhatsApp has been looking to meet this demand, the company has also been pulled up by the government for not complying with the data localisation norms.

What Is The Case All About

In the latest privacy-related controversy, reports revealed that spyware "Pegasus' snooped into the phones of 1,400 people across the world earlier this year through WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned messaging platform had filed a case against Israel-based surveillance firm NSO Group in the federal court, accusing them of allegedly being involved in the breach.

According to WhatsApp, the company came across the cyber attack in May this year where its video calling feature was being compromised to send malware to users. According to media reports, through this attack, NSO helped the government spies get access to the phones of 1,400 users across four continents. The targets were mainly diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. "This attack was developed to access messages after they were decrypted on an infected device, abusing in-app vulnerabilities and the operating systems that power our mobile phones," WhatsApp said in a statement.

However, NSO has denied the allegations and said in a statement "In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today's allegations and will vigorously fight them. The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists. It has helped to save thousands of lives over recent years."

Government Asks WhatsApp For Clarifications

Some days back the Indian government had asked the social media company to explain how the spyware Pegasus was used spy on Indian users by November 4. The Centre also asked the company to state their plans to avoid such incidents, according to media reports.

However, according to reports, WhatsApp claimed it had informed government officials about the breach in May, refuting allegations about having kept it a secret.

An ANI report, which cited government officials said that the communication from WhatsApp was technical jargon without any mention of Pegasus or extent of the breach.

Shreya Ganguly

Former Features Writer

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