WhatsApp data breach hits downloads in its biggest market — opens it up to Telegram and Signal

WhatsApp data breach hits downloads in its biggest market — opens it up to Telegram and Signal

  • WhatsApp downloads in India dipped by 80% after Facebook announced it was suing NSO Group for hacking into the messaging mobile app.
  • India is WhatsApp’s largest market accounting for 200-300 million active users.
  • Competing apps like Signal and Telegram, which also promise robust encryption, saw an increase in downloads.

Facebook’s lawsuit against the Israeli security firm, NSO Group, might have been filed in the US but its Indian users are fleeing the platform — both from on Android and iOS.

Sensor Tower data showed that WhatsApp downloads in India slipped from 8.6 million before the lawsuit was filed to a dismal 1.8 million between October 26 to November 3 — after the lawsuit came to light — according to Business Standard.

This could spell trouble for the Facebook-owned messaging service since India its biggest market with 1.5 billion active users. The last reported number of active users for India were at 200 million in 2017. Experts have since estimated that its users have increased to 300 million.

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And the competition is gaining from it as users looks for alternatives to WhatsApp.

WhatsApp’s competition

Signal, another messaging app that promises end-to-end encryption, saw its downloads in India increase by 63% during the same time frame reaching 96,000 unique downloads.

Telegram, which has more users in India — promising encryption and self destructing messages — also saw a 10% increase in downloads, hitting 920,000.

WhatsApp’s waning popularity

Despite past issues of WhatsApp being accused of misappropriating news that led to lynch mobs across India, this is the first time such a drastic dip has occurred.

WhatsApp users were allegedly targets of a spyware attack using Pegasus, NSO’s flagship software, claims Facebook’s lawsuits. Globally 1,400 people were infected, including 121 in India — two dozen of whom were activists, journalists and lawyers.

Since then, the opposition has cried foul and implicated that Indian government has used the same software to spy on its citizens. WhatsApp claims that they told the Indian government about the WhatsApp being hacked by spyware twice — one in May and then again in September. The government responded by saying that the information provided by the company was ‘insufficient and incomplete’ at the time.

Not only is WhatsApp’s popularity waning in India but its long-awaited payments feature might have more obstacles to overcome. After news of WhatsApp’s hack affecting Indian users, the central government asked the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to mull over whether or not social networking platforms should be allowed to conduct financial transactions.

The IT Ministry’s Standing Parliamentary Committee is holding a hearing on November 20 to investigate claims of invasion of privacy.

See also:

Investigating the WhatsApp hack — Parliament probe might trump the judiciary
WhatsApp spyware hack raises security concerns around its upcoming payments service
Jeff Bezos’ intimate messages, data from drug cartels, Jamal Kashoggi — the many things Pegasus is suspected of hacking before WhatsApp