WhatsApp Pay in India soon, says Mark Zuckerberg.

Data compliance issues and regulations have kept WhatsApp Pay launch in abeyance for quite some time, despite a successful test run of the payments service with one million users in the country
Facebook is inching closer to launch much-anticipated WhatsApp Pay in India and will soon have a positive news to share, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said.

Data compliance issues and regulations have kept WhatsApp Pay launch in abeyance for quite some time, despite a successful test run of the payments service with one million users in the country.

“We have our test going in India. The test really shows that a lot of people are going to want to use this product. We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to launch to everyone in India soon, but of course will share more news when we have that,” Zuckerberg told analysts on an earnings call on Wednesday.

The peer-to-peer, UPI-based WhatsApp Pay service will reach over 400 million users — especially the small and medium businesses (SMBs) — to boost digital inclusion in the country.

The government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have expressed concerns over some of WhatsApp’s features in complying with the regulations.

WhatsApp had earlier said it had built a local system to store payments-related data to comply with the RBI’s data localisation requirement, but later in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the RBI said WhatsApp’s Pay is yet to comply with its data localisation norms.

“We differentiate between payment systems that are built on top of the existing financial infrastructure like what we’re trying to do with WhatsApp payments or when we make payments in Instagram Shopping, and our work with something like Libra that is trying to build some new technological infrastructure for financial services,” Zuckerberg elaborated.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said if WhatsApp meets the regulatory norms from RBI and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), then it should be allowed to start digital payment operations in the country.

It is nearly a necessity for WhatsApp to launch the payment service as it is in direct competition with giants like Alphabet’s Google Pay, Walmart-owned PhonePe, Amazon Pay and Alibaba-backed Paytm. These companies are in a fierce competition to dominate the digital payments industry in the country which is estimated to hit $1 trillion by 2023.

According to a report by Omidyar Network and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), nearly half of MSME owners with annual business revenue between ₹3 lakh and ₹75 crore would use WhatsApp Payments once it is fully rolled out.

During the earnings call, Dave Wehner, Chief Financial Officer at Facebook, said daily active users reached 1.62 billion, up 9 per cent compared to last year, led by growth in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Pegasus, the spyware that came in via WhatsApp

In May 2019, WhatsApp identified a bug in its call function. The bug was used to install a malicious code into users’ phones On October 29, it identified the malicious code as Pegasus, a spyware developed by an Israeli company called NSO.

The code is transmitted by calling the target phone on WhatsApp. It enters the phone even if the call is not answered. This is only one of the ways of delivering Pegasus.

Once installed, it can send the target’s contacts, calendar events, phone calls and messages on communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram to the spyware’s controller. It can also turn the phone into a spying device by switching on its camera or microphone.
Over 100 human-rights activists, lawyers, and journalists were targeted across the globe including several lawyers and journalists in India.

Apple’s iOS security update 9.3.5 takes care of the vulnerability exploited by Pegasus. Google says it identifies infected Android phones, disables the malware and informs the targets. Meanwhile, WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook have sued NSO in a U.S. court.

After Spyware Scandal, WhatsApp Explains How To Prevent Pegasus Attack ?

Hit by a spyware scandal affecting several mobile phone users across the world, WhatsApp has told likely victims that they should install the latest version of the messaging software and actively update the mobile operating system of their devices to ensure protection against future attacks.
The Facebook-owned messaging service listed the two precautionary measures in a message to users it believed were affected by the sophisticated Pegasus spyware. “How to stay secure: Always use the latest version of WhatsApp and keep your mobile operating system updated to receive the latest security protections,” it read.

The message also explained that while WhatsApp had earlier stopped an “advanced cyber actor” from exploiting its video-calling service to install spyware in certain mobile phones, there was a possibility that the device in question could have been affected.

This message was sent to likely victims of the spyware scandal before Facebook sued cybersecurity company NSO for over $75,000 in damages on Tuesday. It has alleged that the Israeli firm illegally used WhatsApp servers to sneak Pegasus into phones belonging to 1,400 users across 20 countries.

In India, the targeted users reportedly comprised journalists, activists, lawyers and senior government officials. Bela Bhatia, an activist working in Chhattisgarh, hinted at a deeper conspiracy behind the scandal. “The person who called me explained how I had been targeted, telling me that ‘we can clearly and categorically say your own government has done this’

Pegasus allegedly takes over the phone’s operating system during a video call, giving attackers access to users’ messages, calls and passwords. It can even turn the mobile phone into a microphone capable of listening to conversations in a room. The spyware is believed to have been used to snoop on Indian activists and journalists for nearly two weeks in April.

While WhatsApp has refused to provide the exact number of those targeted, it claims to have informed each affected user about the issue. “We quickly added new protections to our systems and issued an update to help keep people safe. We are now taking additional action on the basis of what we have learnt to date,” it said in a statement.