WhatsApp is now probably illegal in India

WhatsApp is now probably illegal in India

Last night WhatsApp turned on encryption within the app. This means, by default, if you are using the latest version of WhatsApp all your communication through the app will be encrypted. This also – probably, and that is a big probably – makes WhatsApp illegal in India. The reason? Our IT laws and rules are so outdated that a case can be made against WhatsApp because now it is using 256-bit encryption by default.

This is legally a grey area and given the fact that WhatsApp is popular in India, the government may not go after it, but in theory it can very well declare the chat app illegal. None of the Indian IT-related regulations permit 256-bit encryption in private services. Although, none of them also specifically outlaw it. But there are some guidelines issued by Department of Telecommunications, which the government can use to term WhatsApp illegal.

According to rules issued by DoT in 2007, License Agreement for Provision of Internet Service (including Internet Telephony) mandates that private parties in India cannot use encryption that is higher than 40-bits without explicit permission from the government.

Also, the permission is granted only if the entity that intends to use encryption submits decryption keys to the government, which in the case of WhatsApp is going to be impossible because it has implemented the encryption in a way where even WhatsApp doesn’t have the keys.

Now, the interesting bit here is that WhatsApp is not an ISP and neither it needs any DoT licence to offer its services in India. So it is not clear if the encryption rules formulated by DoT apply on it or not. Although, due to the lack of clarity in this matter, if the government wants, it can clearly chase WhatsApp out of the country with its 40-bit stick.

India is, however, in the process of formulating some sort of coherent encryption policy. Last year, the government floated a draft proposal for the use of encryption in India. It was a bad bad draft, which government pulled back because of criticism. One of the suggestions in the draft was that people using encrypted services will be asked to keep the decrypted data for at least 90 days. If something like that makes its way to whatever new policy the government comes up with, it will definitely make the WhatsApp illegal, especially after its decision to turn on strong encryption by default for all users across the world.

White House declines to support encryption legislation

White House declines to support encryption legislation

The White House is declining to offer public support for draft legislation that would empower judges to require technology companies such as Apple Inc to help law enforcement crack encrypted data, sources familiar with the discussions said.

The decision all but assures that the years-long political impasse over encryption will continue even in the wake of the high-profile effort by the Department of Justice to force Apple to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in last December’s shootings in San Bernardino, California.

President Obama suggested in remarks last month that he had come around to the view that law enforcement agencies needed to have a way to gain access to encrypted information on smartphones.

But the administration remains deeply divided on the issue, the sources said.

The draft legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is expected to be introduced as soon as this week.

The bill gives federal judges broad authority to order tech companies to help the government but does not spell out what companies might have to do or the circumstances under which they could be ordered to help, according to sources familiar with the text. It also does not create specific penalties for noncompliance.

Although the White House has reviewed the text and offered feedback, it is expected to provide minimal public input, if any, the sources said.

Its stance is partly a reflection of a political calculus that any encryption bill would be controversial and is unlikely to go far in a gridlocked Congress during an election year, sources said.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the pending legislation, but referred to White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s statements on encryption legislation. Last month Earnest said the administration is “skeptical” of lawmakers’ ability to resolve the encryption debate given their difficulty in tackling “simple things.”

Tech companies and civil liberties advocates have opposed encryption legislation, arguing that mandating law enforcement access to tech products will undermine security for everyone. Several lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, have vowed to oppose any attempt to limit encryption protections in U.S. technology products.

Even some intelligence officials worry that enabling law enforcement agencies to override encryption will create more problems than it solves by opening the door to hackers and foreign intelligence services. Some also say it is unnecessary because the government has other means of getting the information it needs.

The Justice Department dropped its legal action against Apple last week, saying it had found a way to hack into the phone.

The White House last year backed away from pursuing legislation that would require U.S. technology firms to provide a “back door” to access encrypted data. The backpedaling resembled a retreat by President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s on efforts to require a special computer chip in phones to give the U.S. government a way to monitor encrypted conversations.

But the desire for encryption legislation among some intelligence and law enforcement officials has never gone away, and it gained new life after the Islamist militant-inspired attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Even some intelligence officials worry that enabling law enforcement agencies to override encryption will create more problems than it solves by opening the door to hackers and foreign intelligence services

Obama, speaking at the South by Southwest entertainment festival in Austin, Texas, last month, warned against “fetishizing our phones” and said that doing nothing to address law enforcement’s encryption challenges “can’t be the right answer.”

Obama, however, also cautioned against Congress taking any action that would be “sloppy and rushed.”

Apple and others have called on Congress to help find a solution to the problem of criminals and terrorists using encryption to avoid surveillance. A separate proposal to form a national encryption commission to further study the issue is also not expected to be enacted this year.

Meanwhile, tech companies are stepping up their efforts to implement encryption and other security measures. The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp announced this week that it had implemented complete encryption of its service – and now cannot get access to customer messages even if was ordered to by a court.

Nokia to cut thousands of jobs following Alcatel deal

Nokia to cut thousands of jobs following Alcatel deal

Telecom network equipment maker Nokia is planning to cut thousands of jobs globally, including 1,400 in Germany and 1,300 in its native Finland, as part of a cost-cutting program following the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent earlier this year.

In France, Nokia said on Wednesday it will cut only 400 jobs, but will also create 500 posts in research and development, in line with a promise to the French government last year when it was negotiating the Alcatel deal.

“The pledges made by Nokia when it bought Alcatel-Lucent have been kept,” said Frederic Aussedat, a representative of the CFE-CGC union in France.

Nokia declined to give a total figure for global job cuts. The company employs about 6,850 people in Finland, 4,800 in Germany, 4,200 in France and around 104,000 around the world.

“This (1,300) is a terrible figure, we have rather difficult employment situation in the sector to begin with,” Pertti Porokari, chairman of the Union of Professional Engineers in Finland, said. “Seems that Finnish workers have lost this match (against the French).”

Nokia took control of Franco-American Alcatel-Lucent in January following its 15.6 billion euro ($17.7 billion) all-share offer, intended to help it compete with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei in a market where limited growth and tough competition are pressuring prices.

Nokia is seeking 900 million euros billion of operating cost synergies from the Alcatel deal by 2018.

Huawei's new P9 strives to take on the iPhone with its Leica camera

Huawei's new P9 strives to take on the iPhone with its Leica camera

On expected lines, Chinese smartphone giant, Huawei took the wraps off its laters flagship smartphone the P9 on Wednesday.  The phone is being offered in two variants, the P9 and the P9 Plus.

It is a slick looking phone which measures just 6.95mm, 144 grams and super slim bezels. It has a full metal body, something one comes to expect of a top of the line smartphone these days. The larger P9 Plus is slightly thicker and heavier at 6.98 mm and 162 grams.

The bigger story about the P9 is its unique camera system on the back. It has a dual-camera system on its back for which it has worked with iconic German camera brand Leica.

It has twin 12-megapixel Leica SUMMARIT lenses which deliver 1.25 micro pixels and a ultra wide f/1.1 aperture, which is the highest ever seen on a smartphone. There is also a laser auto-focus system and optical image stabilisation.

Interestingly, one of the camera on takes monochrome shots while the other focusses on taking coloured shots. The phone combines both images into one to create the final photo. Huawei says that the monochrome image takes in 300 per cent more light and 50 per cent more contrast than a coloured photo because it doesn’t need to resolve the colours of the lighting. We have Chinese brand Qiku take a similar approach with its cameras. There’s also a depth sensor which also allows for refocussing capabilities.

On the front too, there is a 8-megapixel camera and overall, Huawei is very gung-ho about the camera on the P9 and P9 Plus and it believes it can take-on the iPhone 6S and the new Galaxy S7.

As for the core functionality of the phones they run on Huawei’s new Kirin 955 oct-core processor. The smaller model has 3 or 4GB RAM while the larger P9 Plus has 4GB RAM. Similarly, the P9 comes in 32GB and 64GB variants with a microSD card slot, while the larger P9 Plus comes on in a 64GB versions also supporting microSD cards.

The display on the P9 is a 5.2-inch Full HD LCD screen, while the P9 Plus for obvious reasons gets a larger 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED screen with Huawei’s ‘Press Touch’ technology which is similar to Apple’s 3D touch.

Other frills of the phones include an improved fingerprint scanner on the back, large 3,000 and 3,400mAh batteries, USB Type C connectivity, and stereo speakers.

The phone runs on Android 6.0 marshmallow customised with Huawei’s own UI.

Besides this it is also accompanied by a new wearable that is called the Huawei Talkband B3 which is IP57 certified and has PMOLED screen. It will start at 169 Euros which around Rs 12,800.

The phones will go on sale on April 16 in a number of countries including the US,UK, China and many more for a starting price of 599 Euros which is around Rs 45,000. The larger P9 Plus will cost 749 Euros which is around Rs 56,000.

Currently, there is no word of an India launch.

Microsoft Lumia 650 launched in India

Microsoft Lumia 650 launched in India for Rs 15,299

After a bit of cloak and dagger, Microsoft has launched the Lumia 650 in India for Rs 15,299. Only earlier in the week we had reported that the phone could be launched soon in India, and now it is available.

“We crafted the Lumia 650 with the finest detail while delivering a consistent and familiar Windows 10 experience. Lumia 650 brings the best of Microsoft productivity, beautiful design and an affordable price. The device is perfect for enterprises and Windows fans alike,” said Ajey Mehta, Country General Manager, Microsoft India.

Many believe the Lumia 650 to be the last Lumia branded smartphone from Microsoft. The phone was announced a couple of months ago without much fanfare.

The phone runs on Window 10 for mobile like most Microsoft products. It has a 5-inch OLED screen with a 720p HD resolution which is reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor which is a quad-core chip clocked at 1.3GHz. It has 1GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage. There’s also a memory card slot which supports SD cards with up to 200GB of storage.

The phone packs in a 2,000mAh battery and has a 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 5-megapixel camera on the front. It is also a dual-SIM smartphone supporting 4G networks.

Microsoft has emphasised on the design of the device. It has an anodised aluminium frame with chamfers which makes it look elegant and it is quite slim at 6.9mm. The phone is billed as enterprise focused offering. One of the unique features of the phone is that it allows IT managers to test an update of the operating system with their own business systems and apps before deployment.

As it is based on Window, it comes with signature Microsoft experiences like OneDrive and Cortana. It also supports Office 365.

While there are some unique experiences on the phone, Microsoft will find it difficult to compete in the market as phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 are offering consumers better value with more features and better hardware specifications.

WhatsApp encryption feature is security threat, say security agencies

WhatsApp encryption feature is security threat, say security agencies

Security agencies have expressed concern over the new encryption feature introduced by popular messaging giant WhatsApp saying it could be misused by anti- national elements for achieving their nefarious designs.

The just-introduced end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp will protect texts and voice calls and gives no access to the security agencies, making it much tougher for them to tackle any situation arising out of messages, videos being circulated through the messaging service.

WhatsApp has puts out a one-line advisory to its users: Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption.

“The move is a potential security threat,” said a security official.

WhatsApps action came close on the heels of a legal battle between Apple and FBI over the US agencys demand that the iPhone maker help unlock its mobile phones.

The popular messenger was being used excessively in Jammu and Kashmir by separatists and anti-national elements for spreading rumours which have often led to violent clashes.

The security agencies will be taking up the matter with the Telecom ministry to ensure that proper safeguards are in place before the services could be allowed in the country, the sources said.

In past, the government had red-flagged BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS), BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) of smartphone maker Research-In-Motion (RIM) until the company installed a server within India for real-time information to the security agencies.

HP rolls out Elite x3 phablet, to reach India in late 2016

HP rolls out Elite x3 phablet, to reach India in late 2016

In a yet another fillip to the idea that smartphone can one day become your laptop or personal computer, HP Inc on Thursday unveiled Elite x3 – a 5.96-inch touchscreen device that runs Windows 10 Mobile and supports Continuum – a feature that allows the device to be attached seamlessly to a separate screen, mouse and keyboard.

To be available in Asia Pacific and Japan in September this year and then in India, HP Elite x3 bridges phablet, laptop and desktop use cases from a single computing device while enabling users to run key productivity apps across seamlessly.

“At HP, we are constantly pushing the envelope in design, productivity, security and entertainment to build innovative products for ‘One Life’,” Anneliese Olson, vice president of personal systems business, HP Asia Pacific and Japan, told reporters here.

By utilising Continuum in Windows 10, the Elite x3 enables frictionless multi-screen transitions between a phone and a desktop PC. The device sports 8MP front camera and 16MP rear camera.

For users’ security, the device has both a fingerprint reader and an iris recognition camera, offering biometric security as part of Window’s biometric Hello framework.

“Users can dock Elite x3 with its ecosystem of accessories to render desktop and laptop productivity experiences while also retaining productivity on-the-go in a world-class premium and commercial-grade phablet,” HP added.

Although Elite x3’s docking station is not new in the field but what takes HP device into a new league is its mobile extender that helps Elite x3 double as a laptop.

The Elite x3 offers a unique computing experience by leveraging the power of the Snapdragon 820 processor, the optional HP Desk Dock and the optional Lap Dock, allowing the device to let people work on their own terms no matter where the locale.

Users can also enjoy easier, faster charging with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology.

The Desk Dock offers a full featured desktop experience for the Elite x3.

It includes a DisplayPort for external monitor support, two USB-A and a USB-C connection for business continuity and wired Ethernet to seamlessly scale users’ productivity at their desk.

The Elite x3 docks in portrait mode at a comfortable viewing angle when sitting at a desk.

The dock also supports the Elite x3 with and without a protective case.

The HP Lap Dock creates a laptop experience using a near zero bezel 12.5-inch diagonal HD display that’s mere one kg.

No data is stored on the Lap Dock for additional security and all of the apps, passwords and files are managed and stored from the Elite x3.

The Elite x3 also allows users to work with the apps they love and rely on.

HP Workspace – an app catalog designed by HP to easily enable access to virtualised apps – drives a seamless app usage experience.

HP Workspace on the Elite x3 creates a virtual PC, giving users access to company curated catalogs of x86 apps via a virtualised solution.

Users benefit from quick access to their virtualised apps with a full keyboard and mouse experience not typically available from a mobile device when using the Desk Dock and Lap Dock.

HP is also partnering with Salesforce, the world’s leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, to include Salesforce on every Elite x3, empowering users to run their businesses from their mobile devices with powerful tools that work in the cloud, keeping them up-to-date with whatever real-time data they need.

The price of Elite x3 device is yet to be announced.

All-metal Meizu M3 Note with Helio P10, fingerprint scanner launched

Meizu M3 Note with fingerprint scanner launched

Chinese company Meizu has launched the successor of its budget phone M2 Note, aka the M3 Note. The Meizu M3 Note has been launched in China at a starting price of CNY 799 (about Rs 8,200) for the 2GB RAM and 16GB memory variant. The 3GB RAM and 32GB memory variant of the phone meanwhile has been priced at CNY 999 (about Rs 10,300).

The M3 Note is now available for registration in China and will be available for buy from April 11. There is however no word yet regarding its global availability and pricing.

In terms of specification set, the M3 Note has a 5.5-inch FullHD display with a 1080×1920 pixels resolution and is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor coupled with 2GB/3GB RAM and 16GB/32GB memory. The phone supports expandable storage using microSD card.

The dualSIM phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop-based Flyme OS and comes with a physical home button housing mTouch 2.1 fingerprint reader. The M3 Note boasts of 6000 series aluminum unibody. Connectivity options include: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE, and GPS/ A-GPS.

On the camera front, it has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone is backed by a 4,100mAh battery.

The Meizu M3 Note will be available in the colours: Grey, Gold, and Silver.

Meizu is also expected to unveil a second phone, come January 13, again in China. The phone in question could be the Pro 6, successor to the Pro 5. The flagship phone from Meizu will be powered by MediaTek’s next-generation Helio X25 processor. The USP of the phone however is said to be 6 gigs of onboard RAM.

Rumoured specs of the Pro 6 include: a FullHD display, Meizu’s MBack 3.0 fingerprint technology, Flyme 6.0 OS, Hi-Fi 3.0, and fast charging support. It is also said to include a 3D touch-like display feature.

Bengaluru based Creo will make the first 'unstealable' smartphone

Creo's first smartphone, Mark 1 will be 'unstealable'

Creo, the start-up based from Bengaluru, achieved limelight after sending out teasers of an Android device that promises to be a ‘new phone every month.’ The company secured $3 million in a funding round in January and has scheduled the launch of their first phone on April 13. With the launch date closing up, more and more details are leaking out to the public. According to a new report from Firstpost, the device will house a 21Megapixel camera unit.

Five reasons why this phone is great

  1. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  2. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  3. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  4. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  5. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.

 

Apart from that, the report also specifies that the device will come with extra safety features that will render the device ‘unstealable’. The user will be able to track the device despite any amount of factory resets performed on the smartphone. The software will be based on Android Lollipop 5.1.1 but will still have most of the updated features from Marshmallow. The company is banking on the software experience more than anything else. Creo claims to be “working on building the Android experience of the future” by putting out features that are undreamt of on a smartphone.

Earlier, the company released a few images with a resolution of 6144 x 3456 pixels, which apparently comes from the phones camera. This further proves that the phone might indeed feature a 21Megapixel primary camera.

Established smartphone companies like Apple and Microsoft are focussing on the software end of the technology and it seems even Indian start-ups like Creo and Yu have recognized the untapped potential in this field. With just a few days to go, the much anticipated device, with all its features, will be out in the open. Stay tuned for more information.

Panasonic Eluga Arc with fingerprint scanner, 2GB RAM launched

Panasonic Eluga Arc with fingerprint scanner, 2GB RAM launched at Rs 12,490

Panasonic India launched the Eluga Arc phone on Thursday at a price of Rs 12,490. The USP of the phone is its 2.5D curve display and rear mounted fingerprint scanner.

Speaking of specifications, the Panasonic Eluga Arc comes with a 4.7-inch HD IPS display and is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor coupled with Adreno 306 GPU and 2GB RAM. The phone comes with 16GB of internal memory which is further expandable by up to 32GB via microSD card.

The dualSIM phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box and supports 4G VoLTE connectivity option.

One the camera front, the Eluga Arc has an 8-megapixel camera on the rear with LED flash along with a 5-megapixel camera on the front.

“Appealing to on-the-go professionals, the Eluga Arc is enabled with Android for Work support which allows enhanced IT Security and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) compatibility for private smart devices to operate securely on corporate networks,” the company said in a statement. The phone also features an IR blaster to control home appliances like TVs, DVD players and ACs.

The Arc is backed by an 1,800mAh battery and supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 1.0.

“For smartphone users, a major concern is the confidentiality and security of the highly volatile data, with cloud storage usage growing rapidly across segments. This control-sensitive device, which achieves complex tasks with a single fingerprint is personalised for the user and protects the smartphone investment,” Pankaj Rana, business head, Mobility Division, Panasonic India said.