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Indian intelligence agencies have red-flagged usage of over 50 China-linked apps as being a threat to national security, as a report in Hindustan Times suggest. The Intel agencies have asked the government to block or advise people to stop the use the apps which remain popular among Indian users. India's security agencies have raised concerns that these apps aren’t safe and end up extracting a large amount of data outside India.

The list includes popular apps such as social media platforms TikTok and Bigo Live, file sharing service Shareit, UC Browser mobile web browser, e-commerce platform Shein, popular game Clash of Kings and apps made and pre-bundled by Xiaomi.

Over and above the China-linked apps, Intel agencies have raised concerns about video-conferencing app Zoom. In April this year, the home ministry had issued an advisory on use of Zoom on the recommendation of the national cybersecurity agency – Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-in). According to the advisory, MHA had deemed Zoom as an unsafe platform and asked individuals using the video conferencing app to adhere to certain security settings in a bid to safeguard their meetings from malicious attackers.

The recommendation of the intelligence agencies on the ban of apps has also been supported by the National Security Council Secretariat, which also felt these could be detrimental to India’s security.

52 apps red-flagged by Intel agencies

360 Security, APUS Browser, Baidu Map, Baidu Translate, BeautyPlus, Bigo Live, CacheClear DU apps studio, Clash of Kings, Clean Master – Cheetah, ClubFactory, CM Browser, DU Battery Saver, DU Browser, DU Cleaner, DU Privacy, DU recorder, ES File Explorer, Helo, Kwai, LIKE, Mail Master, Mi Community, Mi Store, Mi Video call-Xiaomi, NewsDog, Parallel Space, Perfect Corp, Photo Wonder, QQ International, QQ Launcher, QQ Mail, QQ Music, QQ NewsFeed, QQ Player, QQ Security Centre, ROMWE, SelfieCity, SHAREit, SHEIN, TikTok, UC Browser, UC News, Vault-Hide, Vigo Video, Virus Cleaner (Hi Security Lab), VivaVideo- QU Video Inc, WeChat, Weibo, WeSync, Wonder Camera, Xender and YouCam Makeup.

As of now, all 52 of these apps are live on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Store.

TikTok and Helo

The most popular in the among the lot is TikTok, which has over 120 million monthly active users (MAU). Other popular Chinese video-sharing apps included Helo, which has over 50 million MAUs in India, and Bigo Live with over 22 million MAU in the country.

Not for the first time

Security agencies have also reportedly asked security personnel to refrain from using Chinese apps in view of the “detrimental impact that this could have on data security.

Western Intel agencies have repeatedly voiced concerns regarding Chinese hardware and software, as they can be manipulated by the Chinese-regime in case of a conflict.

Discussions on the concerns are currently ongoing as the evaluation of security risk requires examination of each app.

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