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WhatsApp ‘alerted’ government of India of snooping in September; government says info was ‘incomplete’

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NEW DELHI: WhatsApp had informed the Indian government in September that 121 Indian users were targeted by the Israeli spyware Pegasus, but IT ministry has contended that the information received from the messaging app earlier was inadequate and incomplete, according to sources.

Sources at WhatsApp said the messaging platform has now responded to the government’s last week’s query seeking an explanation on the Pegasus spyware incident that allegedly snooped on journalists and human rights activists across the world, including India.

The IT ministry sources said they have received a reply from WhatsApp and are studying it, and that a view on it will be taken soon.

While declining to comment on the details of the fresh response sent last week, sources in WhatsApp said the company had reached out to the government in September as well, its second alert on the issue after its communication in May.

They said the Facebook-owned company had in the September communication flagged that 121 users in India had been impacted by the spyware.

The IT ministry officials said they had received some communication from WhatsApp in the past, but maintained that the information that came in earlier was inadequate, not complete and full of technical jargons.

WhatsApp did not respond to the queries over the matter.

The messaging giant, on Thursday, had said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus.

WhatsApp had said it is suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities’ hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users spanning four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

However, WhatsApp did not say on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted. Refusing to divulge identities of those targeted in India, WhatsApp had said it had, in May, stopped a highly sophisticated cyber attack that exploited its video calling system to send malware to its users.

The spyware allegedly allows compromised devices to give access to phone’s camera, mic, messages, e-mails and even location data. Put simply, the hackers could have access to contents of the entire device.

WhatsApp had said it had sent a special message to about 1,400 users globally that it has “reason to believe were impacted by this attack to directly inform them about what happened”. Over the past few days, several social activists in India have come forward and said they had received communication from WhatsApp in this regard.

WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million.

On Thursday, after WhatsApp’s disclosure that the spyware had targeted Indian users as well, the Indian government had asked WhatsApp to explain the matter and list out the measures that were taken by the app to protect the privacy of millions of users.

While NSO has so far maintained that it only sold its “technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies”, government officials have asserted that the Indian government has no dealings with the Israeli company.

Government officials had also questioned the “suspicious” timing of the disclosure of the hacking incident, particularly against the backdrop of Supreme Court allowing the Centre three months to come up with rules to curb misuse of social media in the country, and the continued demand for bringing in traceability of originators of malicious content.

Source: Press Trust of India

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Tata Consultancy Services to invest Rs 690 crore in Innovation Park in Kochi

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NEW DELHI: In a big boost to the Kerala government’s bid to attract investment, leading IT services provider Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has agreed to invest Rs 690 crore to set up an Innovation Park in Kochi.

The state government has allotted 36.84 acres of land to TCS Ltd for setting up a unit for Electronics Hardware & IT/ITES in KINFRA Electronics Manufacturing Cluster, Kakkanad, Kochi.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard was signed here on Friday in the presence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Industries Minister P Rajeev, an official statement said.

KINFRA Managing Director Santhosh Koshy Thomas and TCS Kerala Vice President Dinesh P Thampi signed the MoU.

TCS Ltd intends to operate a campus for Electronics Hardware & IT / ITES in an area of ??36.84 acres of land in KINFRA Electronics Manufacturing Cluster, Kakkanad, with an investment of Rs 698 crore and would accommodate nearly 10,000 employees in a phased manner, the release said.

The proposed project will be named as the TCS Innovation Park, it said.

The first phase is expected to commence operations in the financial year 2023-24, the statement said.

Once the campus becomes fully operational, it would have a capacity to cater 10,000 employees to be achieved in a phased manner, it said.

While Rs 440 crore will be invested for building the IT complex, Rs 250 crore will be allocated for related developments, official sources said.

The park will be set up in a total built up area of ??16 lakh square feet, they said. The second phase of campus development will be planned later, sources said.

Source: Press Trust of India

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Apple to bring iPhone 13 lineup to India from September 24 with prices starting at Rs 69,900

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NEW DELHI: Apple enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on the latest line-up of iPhones — iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max — with prices starting at Rs 69,900 onwards later this month.

“Customers in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, the UK, the US, and more than 30 other countries and regions will be able to pre-order iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max…availability beginning Friday, September 24,” Apple said in a statement.

Customers can get iPhone 13 Pro for Rs 1,19,900 (onwards) and iPhone 13 Pro Max for Rs 1,29,900 (onwards) from Apple’s online store, it added.

The iPhone 13 will be available for Rs 79,900, while iPhone 13 mini will be priced at Rs 69,900.

The phones will also be available through Apple Authorised Resellers and select carriers, the statement said.

“Our Pro lineup pushes the limits with our most advanced technologies for users who want the very best iPhone. Best in class performance, best in class camera experience, great durability, larger displays and incredible design. This year, we build on that in a major way,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the launch event on late Tuesday night.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max also include 5G with more bands for better coverage.

According to Counterpoint Research Director Tarun Pathak, Apple now has a very aggressive entry point, starting with iPhone SE 2020, going till iPhone 13 Pro Max.

“However, we believe that it’s the iPhone 12 series that is likely to gain traction in India and take on the baton from iPhone 11, that until last quarter captured around 60 per cent of the overall iPhone sales. Apple is likely to capture a 2.4 per cent share in the coming Q4 2021 and will end the year as its highest ever crossing 4 million shipments,” he added.

Pathak noted that the share of the new iPhone within overall Apple sales during the launch quarter increases year-on-year and this year too, it will be the same – driven by iPhone 13.

Apple continues to go aggressive on trade-ins as well, he added.

“We think that iPhone 12 too will benefit from the price cut the most, even better than iPhone 11, and is likely to be the best seller for the festive season. This will also help the premium to reach a record share of the overall smartphone market in India with Apple likely to lead in the launch quarter,” Pathak said.

India is among the key growth drivers for Apple. Strong double-digit growth in markets like India and Latin America had helped the iPhone maker report double-digit revenue growth at USD 81.4 billion – a new record for the June quarter.

The company does not provide country-specific numbers.

Apple, which competes with players like Samsung and OnePlus in the premium smartphone segment, has been aggressively ramping up its presence in the Indian market.

In the past, Apple has talked about plans of setting up brick-and-mortar outlets in India in addition to its online store.

India is among the biggest smartphone markets globally and logging strong growth rates. Smartphone shipment in India grew by 82 per cent in the June 2021 quarter from the year-ago period to over 33 million units. The premium segment – although small – has been growing at a strong pace.

Devices priced under Rs 15,000 account for a significant volume share of the Indian market. Xiaomi (including POCO) accounted for a 28.4 per cent share of June quarter shipments, followed by Samsung (17.7 per cent), Vivo (15.1 per cent), Realme (14.6 per cent) and Oppo (10.4 per cent), as per data from research firm Counterpoint.

According to Apple India’s website, iPhone 13 Pro (128GB) will be priced at Rs 1,19,900; 256GB at Rs 1,29,900; 512 GB at Rs 1,49,900; and 1TB at Rs 1,69,900.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (128GB) will be priced at Rs 1,29,900; 256GB at Rs 1,39,900; 512 GB at Rs 1,59,900; and 1TB at Rs 1,79,900.

The iPhone 13 mini will be priced between Rs 69,900 to Rs 99,900 for 128GB, 256GB and 512GB variants, while iPhone 13 will be available at Rs 79,900-1,09,900 for 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models.

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max make up our most pro-iPhone lineup ever with the biggest advancement for our camera system, the best battery life ever in an iPhone, and the fastest performance of any smartphone, setting a new standard for iPhone and enabling incredible experiences never before possible, Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak said.

The new pro camera system offers even more pro photography capabilities like improved telephoto zoom, macro photography, photographic styles, cinematic mode, as well as ProRes and Dolby vision video, he added.

“The Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion is our best display ever; it intelligently responds to the content on your screen, offers fantastic graphics performance, and is perfect for any viewing experience, he said.

Apple has also introduced the new iPad (9th generation), featuring an A13 Bionic chip that packs even more performance and capability into the most popular iPad, all while retaining its all-day battery life.

The new iPad features a 10.2-inch Retina display with True Tone, a 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with centre stage, support for Apple Pencil (1st generation) and Smart Keyboard, iPad OS 15, and twice the storage of the previous generation (starts with 64GB of storage).

The new iPad, priced at Rs 30,900 onwards, is available to order from Apple’s website and will be available in stores from September 24.

iPad has never been more essential for working, learning, and communicating, and we’re excited to bring one of the biggest updates ever to our most popular iPad.

With the powerful A13 Bionic, more engaging video calls with Centre Stage, and double the storage, the new iPad delivers advanced capabilities, versatility, and simplicity at an incredible value, Joswiak said.

A new iPad mini – with an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display – will be available from September 24 and priced at Rs 46,900 onwards.

Apple Watch Series 7, featuring a re-engineered Always-On Retina display – will be available later this year.

Source: Press Trust of India

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India allows 100 per cent FDI through automatic route in telecom reforms

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NEW DELHI: In big bang reforms, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a relief package for the telecom sector that includes a four-year moratorium on payment of statutory dues by telecom companies as well as allowing 100 per cent foreign investment through the automatic route.

Briefing reporters on the decisions taken by the Cabinet, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnav said nine structural reforms for the telecom sector were approved.

The definition of AGR, which had been a major reason for the stress in the sector, has been rationalised by excluding non-telecom revenue of telecom companies.

AGR refers to revenues that are considered for payment of statutory dues.

The minister said that 100 per cent FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in telecom via the automatic route was approved by the Cabinet.

Among the measures approved were a four-year moratorium on unpaid dues, AGR and spectrum dues, he said.

These measures are expected to ease the cash flow issues being faced by some players in the industry.

“The package announced by the Government aims to usher in structural reforms by infusing investor confidence and provide flexibility to telecom operators with respect to spectrum sharing, surrendering spectrum usage rights etc. One of the key announcements is allowing 100% FDI in the sector which was limited only to 49% from the automatic route. The other significant announcement is to have certainty for auctions in the sector which are slated to be conducted mostly in the last quarter of a financial year. These measure will certainly provide better planning by operators,” Akshat Jain, Partner, J Sagar Associates,

He further added that however, the liability to pay AGR dues continues. The deferment for AGR dues cannot be construed as waiver since the package only envisages a moratorium of four years on such AGR dues from 1st October 2021 (appointed date) with the interest and penalties accruing for such deferral. On other issues such as spectrum payments, bank guarantees etc., the relief appears to be prospective in nature. While this will temporarily provide some relief, it does not essentially alleviate the already bleeding balance sheets of the telecom operators since the dues will ultimately have to be paid with interest. It will be interesting to see whether these measures promote competition in the sector and achieve the desired objectives.

 

With Press Trust of India

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