22:45 GMT19 October 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): WhatsApp is witnessing a drop in downloads after it was revealed that foreign cyber-criminals were allegedly spying on Indian journalists and activists via the instant messaging app.

    In the last week, WhatsApp downloads saw a staggering 80 per cent decline in India – the largest market for the Facebook-owned messaging app, with over 400 million users.

    According to mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower, WhatsApp downloads in the country mid-October stood firm at 8.6 million, however, between 26 October and 3 November, the app downloads dived to just 1.8 million, media reported on Wednesday.

    At a time when data privacy has become a priority to tech-savvy Indians, their quitting WhatsApp citing security concerns and moving to other options does not come as a surprise.

    Reaping the benefits of WhatsApp's ill-fate in India, end-to-end encrypted apps -- Telegram and Signal witnessed an increase in downloads by 63 per cent and 10 per cent respectively across the country.

    While the user-base of the US-based "Signal" messenger increased to 9,600 users from 5,900 users, the German "Telegram" app grew its user base to 920,000, up from the previous 840,000 users in India.

    Earlier last week, WhatsApp confirmed that the Israeli cyber Intelligence Company NSO Group was snooping on Indian activists and journalists via spyware called "Pegasus" that can compromise a device and get access to all of a target's data.

    According to media reports, the Facebook-owned messaging app claimed it informed the Indian authorities about the vulnerability in May 2019.

    However, a government official recently said India's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) could not fathom the magnitude of the situation due to the advisory being full of 'technical jargon'.

    Although WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, the actual contents of the shared messages are not checked.

    "Pegasus" spyware is believed to have entered the messaging app via infected links shared as chats on the app.


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