Days after the Indian government enforced a ban on 59 Chinese apps, including Tik Tok, CamScanner and others, dubious VPNs offering to provide access to these banned apps have surfaced on the Internet, especially on Twitter. Backdoors promising to grant access to the proscribed apps is being promoted on the microblogging website.
The same was highlighted by Twitter users, asking the government to pay heed to the advertisements that flooded the platform, promoting VPN services that promised to skirt around the ban imposed by the central government and allow users to continue using the banned websites and apps.
VPN, or virtual private network, lets users on the internet to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship, and allows connecting to the internet through proxy servers, which allow the user to hide their identity and location on the Internet. Using such VPN networks and proxy servers, content banned or censored in a particular country can be accessed by the users in that country.
Twitter users pointed out how a VPN service named–”Panda VPN Free” was advertising on Twitter for the users to subscribe to its services and get access to Chinese apps such as WeChat, Tik Tok, Cam Scanner and other banned applications.
Dear Indian Govt,— 20 lakh crore AtamNirbhaRatty (@YearOfRat) July 1, 2020
Ye china waali vpn block nahi kee aapne shayed, isiliye twitter pe promotion chaalu hai shayed to bypass the tiktok etc ban. pic.twitter.com/ZL0y0KGPyO
@rsprasad @ishkarnBHANDARI @AskAnshul @TwitterIndia @Swamy39 @PMOIndia getting such ads as twitte ads about bypassing and accessing blocked Chinese Apps. Need to block such ads and access to VPN also. pic.twitter.com/pWXlxYGi5L— Niraj Goyal (@goyalnir) July 1, 2020
One of the promotional tweets by the Panda VPN Free said, “Without Chinese App and Web? Tik Tok, WeChat, QQ, Baidu…. are far away PandaVPN Free. Bypass any Geo-restrictions…Keep away from hackers and government.”
It is also important to note that there are several other VPN services like “Panda VPN Free” that are offering services of providing unfettered access to banned apps and websites and thus undermining the security and integrity of the nation. The government needs to step up its measures to block such VPN services from operating in India, social media users noted.
One Twitter user posted a tweet to BJP leader Sambit Patra and brought to attention another VPN service–Turbo VPN, which claimed to provide access to Tik Tok videos despite the Indian Government’s ban on the popular Chinese media app.
See sir, turbo vpn is promoting tiktok, this is also a chinese app, i have uninstalled it.. pic.twitter.com/u89enaEdTg— Avinish Tiwari (@avinish_tiwari) July 1, 2020
Apart from the promotional campaigns by VPN providers, tutorials also have emerged on various Internet platforms such as Youtube explaining how to access TikTok and other banned apps.
India bans access to 59 Chinese apps, including Tik Tok
Earlier this week, the Indian government had red-flagged 59 China-linked apps, including TikTok as being a threat to national security. The Ministry of Information Technology, invoking its power under section 69A of Information Technology Act, with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 has ordered a block on the use of 59 apps saying that these apps are “engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”.
The ministry in its press release said that it has recently been receiving complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have a location outside India. The compilation of these data poses which threat to national security and sovereignty and is a matter of deep concern said the statement.