Blog

THE HINDU DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS 26TH JANUARY 2020

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Q.1 Consider the following statements:
1. Guru Nanak was born in Talwandi
and founded the Dera Baba Nanak in
Kartarpur.
2. Guru Gobind Singh authenticated the
final compilation Guru Granth Sahib in
early 18th century.
3. Guru Nanak emphasized the worship of
one God.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding
National Nutrition Survey:
1. Comprehensive national nutrition survey
was conducted by Ministry of women
and child development (MoWCD) in
partnership with UNICEF.
2. Clinical development services was the
monitoring agency for the survey.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 To promote use of electric vehicles in India,
government recently announced FAME II
scheme. In reference to FAME II scheme
consider the following statements
1. FAME II scheme will incentivize the
electric vehicles in commercial vehicles,
for public transport and two wheelers.
2. Department of heavy industries is the nodal agency for monitoring and implementation of the scheme.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) None of the above.

ANSWERS: D,B,C

PADMA AWARDS

NEWS:

 

ABOUT PADMA AWARDS

Padma Awards – one of the highest civilian Awards of India, are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

The Awards are given in various disciplines/ fields of activities, viz.- art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.

‘Padma Vibhushan’ is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; ‘Padma Bhushan’ for distinguished service of high order and ‘Padma Shri’ for distinguished service in any field.

The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year.

Padma Awards were instituted in the year 1954.These awards have been announced every year on Republic Day except brief interruption(s) during the years 1978, 1979 and 1993 to 1997.

Facts about Padma Awards

1. The award seeks to recognize work of any distinction and is given for distinguished and exceptional achievements/service in all fields of activities/disciplines, such as Art, Literature and Education, Sports, Medicine,Social Work, Science and Engineering, Public Affairs, Civil Service, Trade and Industry etc.

2. There ought to be an element of public service in the achievements of the person to be selected. It should not be merely excellence in a particular field but it should be excellence plus.

3. All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards.

4. However, Government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these Awards.

5. The award is normally not conferred posthumously. However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously if the demise of the person proposed to be honoured has been recent, say within a period of one year preceding the Republic Day on which it is proposed to announce the award.

6. A higher category of Padma award can be conferred on a person only where a period of atleast five years has elapsed since conferment of the earlier Padma award. However, in highly deserving cases, a relaxation can be made by the Awards Committee.

7. It is the usual practice to invite recommendations every year from all State / UT Governments, Ministries/Departments of the Government of India.

8. The Padma Awards Committee is constituted by the Prime Minister every year.

9. The recommendations made by the Awards Committee are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President for their approval.

10. The total number of awards to be given in a year (excluding posthumous awards and to foreigners) should not be more than 120.

11. The names of the awardees are published in the Gazette of India;the President may cancel and annul the award of the decoration to any person.

12. The Awards are announced on 26 th January every year and are presented by the President of India in an awards presentation ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ceremony is generally held in the month of March/April.

INDIA BRAZIL RELATIONS

NEWS: 

India and Brazil on Saturday concluded an action plan to deepen their strategic partnership as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro outlined efforts to further strengthen ties.

The two sides also concluded 15 agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a variety of issues, including an investment cooperation and facilitation treaty, social security, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, bioenergy and cybersecurity.

India signed its first Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) since 2015 with Brazil, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the two nations are adding new areas in bilateral cooperation. The Modi government had then scrapped all existing treaties with 83 countries and brought in a new “model BIT”.

Stating that the needed legal framework has been created to make investment better in both countries, he said India and Brazil, two big growing democracies, think similarly on several global issues. “From terrorism to the environment, India and Brazil have a similar view on all such issues,” he added.

Bilateral relations were elevated to a Strategic Partnership in 2006 and 2023 will mark 75 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Thanking Mr. Bolsonaro for agreeing to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations, Mr. Modi said, “You will witness the diversity of India at the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath. Brazil is also a country that celebrates many festivals with fervour.”

CORONA VIRUS

NEWS: 

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Saturday reviewed India’s preparedness to deal with any outbreak of the new coronavirus (nCoV), amid mounting global concern over increasing number of cases in China, with 41 fatalities so far.

At a meeting chaired by P.K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Health Ministry officials presented an update about response measures, official sources said.

ABOUT CORONA VIRUS

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.

Symptoms:

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Transmission:

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

the air by coughing and sneezing.
close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
rarely, fecal contamination

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

NEWS:

The Rajasthan Assembly on Saturday passed a resolution urging the Union government to repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), making the State the third one, after Kerala and Punjab, to confront the Centre on the issue.

The House also asked the Centre to withdraw the new fields of information that have been sought for updating the National Population Register.

The CAA is an onslaught on the secular structure of the Constitution,” he said. “The Centre has not framed rules under the Act because it knows that they too will be challenged in the court

WHAT DOES THE ACT CONTAINS?

The ACT seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

The ACT says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.

The ACT shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

ACT has reduce the time period required for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for members of these communities.

NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL

NEWS:

The National Green Tribunal has sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea which alleged that diesel generators used in Meerut schools were causing air pollution.

‘Report in a month’

Taking note of a report furnished by the District Magistrate in Meerut, a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said: “Authorities may take a decision in the light of the observations and if any application for permission is pending, the same may be decided within one month. Further action may be taken for environment protection and a report filed.”

ABOUT NGT:

National Green Tribunal was formed under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010. Act was enacted under the India’s constitutional provision of Article 21 which assures the citizens of India the right to healthy environment.

Tribunal has been created for effective and expeditious disposal of the cases relating to environmental protection and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.

Tribunal is mandated to make endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals filing within 6 months of the filing of the same.

Chairman of the tribunal must be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or judge of the Supreme Court of India. 

The tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice. 

New Delhi is the principle place of sitting of the tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkatta and Chennai are other four places of sitting of the tribunal.

Present NGT Chairperson is Justice (Retired) Adarsh Kumar Goel.

MID DAY MEAL SCHEME

NEWS:

The Congress government in Rajasthan is considering expansion of the food fortification project to cover midday meals distributed in schools and Anganwadi centres to provide micro-nutrients to children in view of the high rate of stunted growth. Against the national average of 37.9% children under five years having stunted growth, the figure in the State is 39.1%.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who discussed the steps for food security and measures to check adulteration with Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) chairperson Rita Teaotia here last week, said the fortification of mid-day meals would help tackle malnutrition among children. Food fortification has been executed through the public distribution system for common citizens, women and children.

The project being implemented in the State has covered wheat flour, soya dal, oil and milk to provide micro-nutrients to vulnerable sections of population, while new strategies are being formulated to widen its scope and reach out to more people.

About Mid Day Meal Scheme

    • It was launched in 1995 as a centrally sponsored scheme.
    • It provides that every child within the age group of six to fourteen years studying in classes I to VIII who enrols and attends the school shall be provided with a hot cooked meal, free of charge every day except on school holidays.
    • The Mid Day Meal Scheme comes under the HRD Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy.

ASSAM RIFLES

NEWS: 

At a late-night meeting on Friday, the Manipur Cabinet resolved to replace the Assam Rifles personnel manning some border check posts with personnel of the State security forces. If required, CRPF will assist these forces.

The decision follows a complaint of assault and misbehaviour by personnel of the Assam Rifles with a woman IPS officer at the Khudengthabi check post, near the Manipur-Myanmar border, on January 19.

ABOUT ASSAM RIFLES

Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force in India founded in 1835.

HQ: Shillong

Guards Indo -Myanmar Border under the One Border One Force Policy of Government of India.

India shares 1643km border with Myanmar and four north eastern states of ARUNACHAL PRADESH, NAGALAND, MANIPUR AND MIZORAM shares border with Myanmar.

Assam Rifles is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs and operational control of Ministry of Defence.

GOVERNOR

NEWS: 

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala has sought the permission of Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan to introduce a resolution in the Assembly urging the President to recall Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for ‘violating’ all democratic principles and ‘publicly questioning’ the pride of the Assembly which passed a unanimous resolution urging the Centre to repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said on Saturday the Governor had crossed the line by terming the resolution “illegal and against the Constitution”. The Assembly has every right to air an opinion on any Central legislation as it is emblematic of the collective will of the people.

FACTS ABOUT GOVERNOR

Article 153: Governors of States There shall be Governor for each State: Provided that nothing in this article shall prevent the appointment of the same person as Governor for two or more States

Article 155: Governor is appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.

It is an independent constitutional office and is not under the control of or subordinate to the Central Government.

Qualification for Governor (Article 157)

  1. Citizen of India
  2. Should have completed 35 years of age

Oath (Article 159) : administered by the Chief Justice of High Court

  1. faithfully execute the office of Governor
  2. preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law
  3. devote myself to the service and well being of the people

CORAL REEFS

NEWS: 

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with help from Gujarat’s Forest Department, is attempting for the first time a process to restore coral reefs using biorock or mineral accretion technology. A biorock structure was installed one nautical mile off the Mithapur coast in the Gulf of Kutch on January 19.

Biorock is the name given to the substance formed by electro accumulation of minerals dissolved in seawater on steel structures that are lowered onto the sea bed and are connected to a power source, in this case solar panels that float on the surface.

Along with scientists from the ZSI, Thomas Goreau, president of Global Reef Technology, U.S. had also provided inputs to the restoration project.

The location for installing the biorock had been chosen keeping in mind the high tidal amplitude in the Gulf of Kutch. The low tide depth where the biorock has been installed is four metres, and at high tide it is about eight metres.

ABOUT CORAL REEFS

Corals reefs are one of the most diverse habitats in the ocean. It is commonly known as the rainforest of oceans.

In tropical seas, many types of coral animals and marine organisms such as coral polyps, calcareous algae, shell-forming creatures and lime-secreting plants live in large colonies. Though they are very tiny creatures, their ability to secrete calcium carbonate within their tiny cells has given rise to a particular type of marine landform. The landforms are popularly known as coral reefs. Coral reefs have numerous species of many forms, colours, and shapes.

Types of Coral Reefs:

The three main types of coral reefs include,

  • Fringing Reefs: Fringing reefs are found along the coastline of the islands and continents. They are the most common type of reef structure found in the ocean. Sometimes they are separated by a shallow lagoon. Fringing reefs develop on the wave cut platforms along the continents and Islands. Their outer edge grows rapidly due to the availability of oxygenated water and food supply by constant wave currents.
  • Barrier Reefs: A barrier reef is separated from the coast by a much wider and deeper channel or lagoon. The reef is partially submerged. Where it lies above the water level. The barrier reefs have narrow gaps at several places to allow the water from the enclosed lagoon to return to the open ocean. Such gaps are very useful for shipping and provide the only entrances for ships to enter or leave the lagoon. The best-known barrier reef is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It is 1200 miles (around 2000 km) long, separated from the coast by a channel 100 miles (160 km) wide in places and over 200 feet (60 m) deep.
  • Atolls: Atolls are similar to barrier reefs except that they are circular, enclosing a shallow lagoon without any land in the centre. The encircling ring is usually broken in a few places to allow the free flow of water. Some of the large atolls include Sudadiva in the Maldives, Bangaram atoll in Lakshadweep.

SHASHTRA SEEMA BAL

NEWS: 

Border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has put on hold payment of arrears and other allowances to its troops for January and February owing to “paucity” of funds, official sources said on Saturday. All arrears will be released to the employees in March, they said. The force functions under the command of the Union Home Ministry as one of the five Central Armed Police Force.

ABOUT SSB

  • SSB comes under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs and a part of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), along with six other central security forces in India (Assam Rifles, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo Tibetan Border Police and National Security Guard).
  • It was established as Special Service Bureau in May 1963, in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression in 1962.
  • It was declared a lead intelligence agency for Indo Nepal in June 2001 and assigned the Indo Nepal border. In 2004, it was also assigned Indo Bhutan border.
  • In 2004, SSB received the President’s Colours in recognition of the keystone role in national security, since its inception.
  • Responsibilities:
    • To promote a sense of security among the people living in the border areas.
    • To prevent trans border crimes and unauthorized entry into or exit from Indian territory.
    • To prevent smuggling and other illegal activities on Indian frontiers.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi and three frontier headquarters are at Lucknow (UP), Patna (Bihar) and Guwahati (Assam).
  • It is spread out on Indo Nepal and Indo Bhutan borders across the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

GALLANTRY AWARDS

NEWS:

Squadron Leaders Siddharth Vashisht and Ninad Mandavgane, pilots of an Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter accidentally shot down in Budgam on February 27 last year, were posthumously selected for the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) on the eve of Republic Day by President Ram Nath Kovind. Four personnel on board were honoured with “Mention-in-Despatches”.

The President approved nine Shaurya Chakras, of which four were posthumous. Six Shaurya Chakras were to Army personnel, while three were to security forces personnel under the Home Ministry.

Description of Indian Gallantry Awards:

War Time Awards:

• Param Vir Chakra, Mahavir Chakra, Vir Chakra

Peace Time Awards:

• Ashoka Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra

Distinguished Service Medals:

• Sena Medal (Army), Nausena Medal (Navy), Vayusena medal

Param Vir Chakra (Pvc)-

Jagranjosh

I. This is the highest gallantry award for officers and other enlisted personnel of all military branches of India for the highest degree of valor in the presence of the enemy

II. It is introduced on January 26, 1950; this award may be given posthumously. Literally, Param Vir Chakra means ‘wheel (or Cross) of the Ultimate Brave’.

III. In Sanskrit, ‘Param’ means Ultimate, ‘vir (pronounced veer) means Brave and Chakra’ means wheel.

Mahavir Chakra-

Jagranjosh

I.  The Mahavir Chakra (MVC) is the second highest military decoration in India and is awarded for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea or in the air.

II. It may be awarded posthumously. As of 2017 more than 218 acts of bravery and selfless courage have been recognized since the inception of the medal.

III. The most MVCs awarded in a single conflict was in the lndo-Pakistan War of 1971, when eleven were given to the Indian Air Force.

Vir Chakra-

 

Jagranjosh

I. Vir Chakra is an lndian gallantry award presented for acts of bravery in the battle field. Award of the decoration carried with it the right to use Vr.C.as a post nominal abbreviations (note the care to distinguish this abbreviation from that for the Victoria Cross (V.C.).

II. It is third in precedence in the war time gallantry awards and comes after the Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra.

Ashok Chakra-

Jagranjosh

I. The Ashok Chakra series of awards are open to civilians also.

II. It is the Peacetime equivalent of Paramvir Chakra and is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or preeminent valour of sacrifice other than in the face of enemy.

III.The decoration may be awarded either to military or civilian personnel and may be awarded posthumously

IV. Recommendations received in respect of civilians from the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations and Ministries/Departments of the Central Government are processed by the Ministry of Defence for the consideration of the Central Honour and Awards Committee chaired by the Defence Minister.

V. These awards are biannual and are given on the Republic Day and Independence Day.

Kirti Chakra-

 

Jagranjosh

I. Kirti Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valor, courageous action or self sacrifice away from the battlefield.

II. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, including posthumous awards.

III. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Maha Vir Chakra.

IV. It is second in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards: it comes after Ashoka Chakra and before Shaurya Chakra. Before 1967, the award was known as the Ashoka Chakra, Class II.

Shaurya Chakra-

Jagranjosh

I. Shaurya Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valor, courageous action or self- sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy.

II. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, sometimes posthumously.

III. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Vir Chakra. it is generally awarded for Counter-Insurgency operations and actions against the enemy during peace-time.

IV. It is third in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards and comes after Ashoka Chakra and Kirti Chakra. It precedes the Sena Medal. Before 1967, the award was known as the Ashoka Chakra, Class III.

BHIMA KOREGAON BATTLE

NEWS:

The Union Home Ministry confirmed on Saturday that it had transferred the investigation into the 2018 Koregaon-Bhima violence to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had on Friday condemned the Centre’s decision. “I strongly condemn the Centre’s decision to transfer the case to NIA without taking permission from the State government. This action is unconstitutional,” he said on Twitter.

About the Bhima- Koregaon battle:

A battle was fought in Bhima Koregaon, a district in Pune with a strong historical Dalit connection, between the Peshwa forces and the British on January 1, 1818. The British army, which comprised mainly of Dalit soldiers, fought the upper caste-dominated Peshwa army. The British troops defeated the Peshwa army.

 

Outcomes of the battle:

  • The victory was seen as a win against caste-based discrimination and oppression. Peshwas were notorious for their oppression and persecution of Mahar dalits. The victory in the battle over Peshwas gave dalits a moral victory a victory against caste-based discrimination and oppression and sense of identity.
  • However, the divide and rule policy of the British created multiple fissures in Indian society which is even visible today in the way of excessive caste and religious discrimination which needs to be checked keeping in mind the tenets of the Constitution.

Why Bhima Koregaon is seen as a Dalit symbol?

  • The battle has come to be seen as a symbol of Dalit pride because a large number of soldiers in the Company force were the Mahar Dalits. Since the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, were seen as oppressors of Dalits, the victory of the Mahar soldiers over the the Peshwa force is seen as Dalit assertion.
  • On 1 January 1927, B.R. Ambedkar visited the memorial obelisk erected on the spot which bears the names of the dead including nearly two dozen Mahar soldiers. The men who fought in the battle of Koregaon were the Mahars, and the Mahars are Untouchables.

ISSUE:HOW IS US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NOMINATED?

WHY IN NEWS?

The first set of elections in the Democratic Party contest in the United States to decide the Opposition party’s presidential nomination is all set to take off in Iowa on February 3.

What are the Democratic presidential primaries all about?

The Democratic presidential primaries (including caucuses) are a series of electoral contests to decide the party’s nominee for President.

These are held over four months, beginning February 3 and ending on June 6, 2020.

The contests are held in each State among the 50 in the United States, besides five U.S. held territories and Democrats Abroad (expatriate U.S. citizens), and conclude with the nomination of delegates from these constituencies for the candidates.

These delegates will then represent the candidate in the Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled to be held at Milwaukee, Wisconsin between July 13-16, 2020. The delegates would, by pledged votes, elect the Democratic Presidential nominee. The candidate who wins a majority of the approximately 3,979 delegates overall, is declared as the nominee.

Apart from these nominated delegates from the election process, the Democratic Party, through its leadership (elected members of the Democratic National Committee among others) and elected officials (Congressional representatives, Governors and distinguished party leaders), also appoints 771 superdelegates.

Following complaints about the undue influence of these unelected delegates from the State primaries, the Democratic National Committee changed the rules in August 2018 and limited the influence of superdelegates. They are now prevented to vote on the first ballot and could vote only in a contested nomination, i.e. in a situation where no candidate enjoys a clear majority after the first ballot.

Superdelegates are, however, allowed to publicly endorse a candidate of their choice before or during the convention.

When and where do the primaries began?

Traditionally, the first electoral contest in the presidential primaries for both the Republican and the Democratic parties have been held at Iowa, situated in the American mid-west region. This time the Iowa caucus for the Democratic party is set to be conducted on February 3.

Despite a relatively low population and an electorate that is not entirely representative of the Democrats’ countrywide base, the strong media attention and the kick-off factor catapult the Iowa caucus into a measuring stick for the candidates in the fray.

What is the difference between a primary and a caucus?

Primary elections are conducted by State/local governments, while caucuses are get-togethers/events that are run by the political parties themselves. Primary elections feature a secret ballot, where registered voters (affiliated to the parties) register their ballot and leave. Caucuses on the other hand involve the physical presence of voters who conduct debates and discussions among themselves and then divide themselves on the basis of their support to candidates. The allocation of delegates is done based on the relative support for the candidates.

How are delegates awarded?

In the Democratic elections, delegates are awarded in proportion to the votes garnered by the candidates in primary elections and relative strengths of presence/support registered in caucuses. Among Republicans, however, some States have a “winner-takes-all” proviso that allows for candidates to reap in all the delegates if they win a majority of the votes.

ISSUE:SHOULD PHONE HACKING OF JEFF BEZOS CONCERN US

WHY IN NEWS?

Earlier this week, The Guardian published a report on the alleged hacking of the personal phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (in 2018). Cyber-forensics firm FTI Consulting, which has been investigating the issue, has attributed this attack to the Saudi regime.

Parts of this alleged incident are eerily similar to the infamous Pegasus case.

What has been the global impact of the vulnerabilities discovered?

Multiple security vulnerabilities affecting WhatsApp were discovered, disclosed, and patched in 2019.

Out of these, one vulnerability in particular, disclosed in May 2019, garnered significant media attention — primarily due to its role in aiding the delivery of spyware known as ‘Pegasus.’

The company behind Pegasus, Israel’s NSO Group, claims to equip “authorised governments” with “technology that helps combat terror and crime.”

According to WhatsApp, the spyware was deployed on at least 1,400 targets, including lawyers, activists, dissidents and diplomats. The Pegasus spyware is also known to have been used against several Indian journalists and activists.

What is a buffer overflow? How does it affect WhatsApp?

Buffer overflows allow attackers to read or write data outside of the defined memory boundaries of a particular program.

Though mitigative measures exist, buffer overflow vulnerabilities in general are complex, and are considered to be harder to detect and exploit than other, more frequently occurring security flaws.

In some cases, buffer overflow vulnerabilities can be leveraged for executing malicious code on the target machine.

Though a vulnerability in WhatsApp alone would not suffice for total compromise of the device, here, the protections offered by end-to-end encryption on the platform would be rendered ineffective — since end-to-end encryption only refers to message contents being encrypted while they are in transit — and since, with a buffer overflow, an attacker would be able to get access to the buffer where data (including received messages) is stored.

Can a buffer overflow in WhatsApp result in the phone on which it is being run being compromised?

Modern computing devices, including smartphones, implement a number of security measures to effectively contain the extent of a program’s ability to interact with machine it is running on.

One such measure is known as a “sandbox”, which limits the ability a program or process has to interact with operating system code. However, it is possible to bypass such protections, too.

It is possible to “chain” a vulnerability in software such as WhatsApp — with a vulnerability in the device’s operating system — escaping the sandbox within which it is run, to ultimately gain “root” privileges on the affected system.

How is data extracted from a device?

Traditionally, upon infection, infected devices communicate back to a “command and control” server. Since a lot of the files on a device may be junk, or of meagre value, an operator would choose what kind of data they wish to retrieve. To thwart the possibility of detection via unusual spikes in bandwidth usage, an operator may choose to extract only information of vital importance.

How can users protect themselves?

A matter of relief is that vulnerabilities such as the ones that have been discussed above are not easy to come by. They are discovered as a result of continuous, concentrated efforts and arduous testing.

For most users, following basic security hygiene, such as not visiting untrusted websites, installing untrusted third party applications or certificates, keeping device and application software updated, should be enough.

People must remember that WhatsApp is not the only method of delivery for complex attacks. Vulnerabilities exist which can allow for escaping the sandbox of mobile browsers to execute code on the system.

For those with an elevated threat profile, simply keeping your phone updated may not always be a definitive way of preventing attacks. Devices can be compromised in a variety of ways, especially given that the adversary has enough time and resources.

Device security must be extended to include monitoring — not only superficial monitoring, which relies on known signatures and vulnerabilities — and not only that which occurs after an indicator of compromise has been spotted.

 

ISSUE: EU BANNING FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNIQUES

WHY IN NEWS?

Last week, European media network EURACTIV and Politico published a story that said the European Commission is mulling a temporary ban (of up to five years) on the use of facial recognition technologies in public spaces.

Why does the European Commission want a temporary ban on facial recognition technologies in public spaces?

European Commission believes that indiscriminate use of facial recognition technologies is a privacy threat, and some regulations are needed so that this does not easily give way to surveillance. During the temporary ban period, “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed,” says the leaked Commission paper, as reported by EURACTIV.

How is facial recognition used in today’s world? When is it problematic?

It is increasingly being used for everything: from unlocking your phone to validating your identity, from auto-tagging digital photos to finding missing persons, and from targeted advertising to law enforcement.

China’s reported use of facial recognition technologies for surveillance in Xinjiang is an example of when this becomes problematic. It also becomes problematic in the absence of privacy and data security laws.

Is the current debate on facial recognition part of a larger debate?

Yes, it flows from conversations all over the world and more specifically on both sides of the Atlantic on regulating artificial intelligence systems (advanced tech whose actions mimic those of humans). Such systems can write stories based on a database, drive cars (still being tested out), and automatically spot suspects in a crowd or for that matter spot anyone.

Meanwhile, what is the world doing with facial recognition technologies?

In a few U.S. cities, including San Francisco, there is now a ban on the government’s use of facial recognition technologies. But the list of adopters seem to be growing bigger by the day. London has joined the bandwagon, and will use real time facial recognition systems to police the city. Closer home, Telangana has recently tested this technology to verify voters in local elections.

What will now happen to the European Commission report?

It is likely to be published by the end of February. And the whole of the remaining part of the year will be spent in getting feedback. A law is not likely this year.

CORONAVIRUS

NEWS: Researchers at the Imperial College London have revised the estimated number of novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan city in China from 1,723 to 4,000. The earlier estimate was made on January 17 and was based on 41 confirmed cases in China as on January 16 and three exported cases – two cases in Thailand and one in Japan.

The estimate has been made by taking into consideration that the Wuhan International Airport has a catchment population of 19 million individuals, a mean 10-day delay between infection and detection, volume of travel from the airport has been 3,301 passengers a day, exit screening that began on January 15 had no impact on exported cases till January 16, and all exported cases are detected at airports outside China.

ABOUT CORONA VIRUS

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.

Symptoms:

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Transmission:

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

the air by coughing and sneezing.
close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
rarely, fecal contamination

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
%d bloggers like this: