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Chinese hackers spying using WhatsApp — Indian Army

March 19, 2018

The Indian Army has put out a video warning Indians about Chinese hackers extracting personal information using the social media application. Cybersecurity experts say hacking WhatsApp groups is no "rocket science."

Screenshot from a video posted by the Indian Army on Twitter that reads: "WhatsApp is the new medium of hacking"
Image: Twitter/adgpi

The Indian Army has alleged that Chinese hackers were using WhatsApp groups to mine personal data from Indians.

In a video posted on Twitter, the Additional Directorate General of Public Interface (ADGPI), the Indian Army's official handle, warned that WhatsApp was the latest platform being used by Chinese hackers to spy on Indians.

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"Chinese numbers starting with +86 (China's country code) barge into your groups and start extracting all the data," the Indian Army said and urged people to regularly "audit" their WhatsApp groups for any unknown numbers.

"Destroy the SIM card if you change your number, and delete your WhatsApp on that number," the army said in the video, which was retweeted by India's Defense Ministry.

The video did not specify whether the hackers are backed by the Chinese state.

Last year, the Indian Army also warned its soldiers stationed along the Chinese border against using a host of applications, including WhatsApp, that were deemed vulnerable to Chinese hackers.

The warning comes just months after the two neighbors defused a potential border conflict by ending a standoff along part of their 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) shared border. The two nations fought a war over the border in 1962. Many of the disputes remain unresolved until today.

Apps that don't collect data

'No rocket science'

Cybersecurity experts say hacking WhatsApp does not require much technical know-how.

"It's no rocket science," Altaf Halde, cybersecurity global business head at the cybersecurity consulting firm Network Intelligence, told DW.

"There are certain paid tools such as Spyzie that can be used to easily gain access to another person's smartphone," Halde said.

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Halde says users should ensure that they don't become part of "random groups" or click on links sent by an unknown number.

He says other smartphone applications are equally vulnerable.

"We go ahead and install applications without gauging the security risks. Why should we give access to our contact list or camera to an app that does not even need access to them?" Halde said.

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China displays military might as standoff with India intensifies

Ashutosh Pandey
Ashutosh Pandey Business editor with a focus on international trade, financial markets and the energy sector.@ashutoshpande85