The Indian Army has developed “an in-house WhatsApp-like messaging application” for its personnel to prevent the possible leaking of classified information to foreign intelligence agencies, the Times of India reported on Friday.
The newspaper interviewed an anonymous “officer” in the Indian Army with alleged knowledge of the new messaging system, reportedly called Secure Application for Internet (SAI).
“SAI is a simple and secure messaging application, which supports end-to-end secure voice, text, and video calling services for Android platforms over the internet. It will be utilized pan-Army to facilitate secure messaging within the service,” the Indian officer told the newspaper.
“SAI was first developed by Colonel Sai Shankar, the commanding officer of a signals unit in Rajasthan, and then upgraded to military-grade standards,” according to the report.
The empaneled auditor of the Indian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) and the Indian Army Cyber Group have reportedly both vetted the application.
“The process for filing an intellectual Property Right application, hosting the infrastructure on the National Informatics Center and adapting it for iOS platforms is currently in progess,” the officer added.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, after reportedly reviewing SAI, praised Col. Shankar for his “skill and ingenuity” in developing the application, the Hindustan Times reported on Friday.
The Indian army instructed its soldiers and officials last year “to stay clear of using WhatsApp for official purposes,” according to the newspaper. Officers assigned to sensitive posts “were also asked to delete their Facebook accounts. Carrying smartphones onto bases and dockyards has been prohibited. This came after the army observed Chinese and Pakistan’s online espionage agents attempting to obtain classified information and data [sic].”
“There have been several cases where Pakistani women spies have virtually ‘honey-trapped’ Indian military personnel through social networking sites into divulging classified information over the last few years,” the Times of India recalled on Friday.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology in July banned 59 Chinese-based apps citing “national security” concerns.
“[I]n view of the emergent nature of threats [the ministry] has decided to block 59 apps … engaged in activities … prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state, and public order,” the ministry said in an official statement at the time. New Delhi later banned an additional 118 Chinese-based apps citing similar concerns over security.
Following the bans, the Indian Defence Ministry “instructed soldiers and officers of the Indian Army to delete 89 apps from their mobile devices … to prevent ‘sensitive information’ from being leaked” from the military members’ smartphones, according to the Hindustan Times.