India makes contact-tracing app compulsory in viral hot zones despite most local phones not being smart

Tech minister says app is 'foolproof'! We imagine Black Hats probably don't agree. And some may have time on their hands at present

India has made use of a COVID-19 contact-tracing app compulsory in some parts of the nation.

The country yesterday extended its national lockdown for two weeks from today. But the extension is not total: regions that have experienced no new cases at all or none in the last 21 days will be designated “green zones”. But locales with known cases or insufficient data will become “red” or “orange” zones subject to ongoing stay-at-home orders and extensive restrictions on business activity.

And in Red or Orange zones, according to the new Order [PDF] from the Ministry of Home affairs, “The local authority shall ensure 100% coverage of the Aarogya Setyu App among residents of the containment zones.”

Aarogya Setyu is India’s national contact-tracing app and has been pushed by officials from the Prime Minister down as not just a handy tool but one it is just-about-unpatriotic to ignore. India’s IT minister has even labelled it “foolproof”, which sounds like a challenge to black hats!

This new order may well be impossible to enforce because the app doesn’t run on feature phones, which comprise over half of India’s national phone fleet. However it’s not hard to see why India wants more installs: it’s had around 80 million to date, which is not just over six percent of the country’s population and not a particularly useful sample in a nation where mega-cities top the ten-million-resident mark.

Beware awkward moments next exit

Wanted: An exit strategy from the overt surveillance of smartphone contact tracing


Aarogya Setyu uses the now-familiar Bluetooth beacon method for logging users’ activities and its. privacy policy promises data collected will only be used for anonymous heat maps and informing those who encounter COVID-19 sufferers. But the privacy policy also includes a clause saying “All personal information collected from you under Clause 1(a) at the time of registration will be retained for as long as your account remains in existence and for such period thereafter as required under any law for the time being in force.”

That’s not a clause The Register has found in our investigation of similar apps. And now it’s a clause that will bind unknown numbers of users who will be compelled to download the app. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software
    Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

    A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

    The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

    Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

    Continue reading
  • Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs
    CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

    Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

    "The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

    Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

    Continue reading
  • Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France
    That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

    HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

    Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

    Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022