china flag keyboard cybersecurity

The government had noted a “need to ensure the safety and security” of mobile devices which have achieved 75 percent penetration in the Indian market. Source: Shutterstock/karen roach

India widens crackdown on Chinese tech companies amid standoff

AN Indian government official says security tests were being run on China’s popular UC Browser for potential data leaks amid a widening crackdown on Chinese technology companies.

On Wednesday, Electronics and Information Technology Ministry secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney told Bloomberg the tests on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s UCWeb were underway before the government decides to take any action.

Boasting over 50 percent of India’s browser market, UC browser has over 100 million monthly active users in the country.

Earlier this month, the ministry said it was focusing in “securing Indian cyberspace” and digital infrastructure, directing over two dozen smartphone companies to provide detailed responses about their “safety and security practices, architecture, frameworks, guidelines and standards” by Aug 28.

Chinese brands Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo and Gionee were among the household names asked to respond to the query along with other global brands like Apple and Samsung as well as Indian companies.

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In a directive, the government had noted a “need to ensure the safety and security” of mobile devices which have achieved 75 percent penetration in the Indian market.

Apart from the growing market for Chinese brands, the Indian government is also concerned about the bulk of components directly imported from China.

Indian budget phone maker Karbonn Mobiles Pvt chairman Sudhir Hasija told Bloomberg over 95 percent of the components come from China or were made by Chinese-owned companies in Taiwan or elsewhere.

He said nothing else was made India other than chargers, batteries, and headsets.

“There’s a feeling that China collects data through their chip sets from users.”

“This is the worry of the whole world and also the worry of the Indian government.”

The crackdown on Chinese companies comes amid an eight-week-long standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Doklam plateau near their disputed frontier.

Last week, a source in New Delhi, who had been briefed on the military situation on the border, said soldiers foiled a bid by a group of Chinese troops to enter Indian territory in Ladakh, near Pangong lake.

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On Monday, China laid the blame at India’s door for an altercation along their border involving soldiers from both of the Asian giants.

Some of the Chinese soldiers carried iron rods and stones, and troops on both sides suffered minor injuries in the melee, the source said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said last Tuesday, Chinese border forces were carrying out “normal” patrols on the Chinese side of the actual line of control in the Pangong lake are.

The heightened tension on both ends of the border come ahead of a summit of the BRICS group of nations in the Chinese city of Xiamen in early September, with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa due to attend.

China has repeatedly asked India to unilaterally withdraw from the Doklam area, or face the prospect of an escalation. Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than its crushing defeat in a brief border war in 1962.

Additional reporting by Reuters