Messaging giant WhatsApp’s chief executive officer, Will Cathcart, has called on governments and companies to ensure security of the Internet. “This is a wake up call for security on the internet. The mobile phone is the primary computer for billions of people. Governments and companies must do everything they can to make it as secure as possible. Our security and freedom depend on it,” Cathcart said in a tweet, citing the news stories about Israeli security firms spyware Pegasus being used to snoop on journalists.
The executive also took the opportunity to defend end-to-end encryption (E2EE), a technology that has put his company at odds with governments worldwide, including India. “That’s why we continue to defend end-to-end encryption so tirelessly. To those who have proposed weakening end-to-end encryption: deliberately weakening security will have terrifying consequences for us all,” he said.
WhatsApp is currently fighting a case against the Indian government against the traceability rule imposed in the new Information Technology Rules (IT Rules). The rules require platforms like WhatsApp to trace the first originator of a post or message in India, which would require the platform to build backdoors into its encryption technologies.
The messaging platform itself had been a victim of the Pegasus tool back in 2019. At the time, phones of over 120 journalists, activists etc. had been infiltrated by exploiting a vulnerability in WhatsApp. The company subsequently sued the NSO Group for exploiting its platform. “We need more companies, and, critically, governments, to take steps to hold NSO Group accountable. Once again, we urge a global moratorium on the use of unaccountable surveillance technology now. It’s past time,” Cathcart wrote in his tweets today.
While the company has since patched its app, the new investigation by various media outlets and Amnesty International found that the spyware could still infiltrate phones using other means, including loopholes in Apple’s iMessage.
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