Indian Govt. Looks to Block Proton Mail in the Country; Find out Why!

Proton Mail likely to be blocked in India
In Short
  • A recent report reveals that thirteen private schools in Chennai received fake bomb threats via email on February 8, 2024.
  • The email was sent using Proton Mail, and after that, Tamil Nadu police requested the IT Ministry to ban the email platform.
  • The final decision is pending, and Proton is currently working with the Indian Government to come to an agreement and avoid the ban.

Back in 2022, India banned over 200 Chinese apps such as PUBG Mobile and TikTok under Section 69A of the IT Act. As per this section of the law, the MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) can issue a ban order to any such app or service that poses a threat to national security. Now, from the looks of it, Proton Mail, a popular end-to-end encryption email platform, might be next in line on the ban list.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, on February 8, 2024, 13 private schools in Chennai received fake bomb threats. These empty threats were sent using Proton Mail, directly bringing the platform under MeitY’s radar. Following this incident, the Tamil Nadu police appealed to the IT Ministry to issue an order to block Proton Mail.

The police also tried following multiple leads to trace the IP address of the user that sent the bomb threats and thereby apprehended them. Sadly, nothing came out of it. Additionally, Interpol was reached out for help as well. But, that didn’t pan out as intended either.

On February 14, 2024, almost a week after the incident, the Section 69A blocking committee held a meeting and reached the decision to block Proton Mail in the country, as per the report. History is proof that the committee will issue a ban order to Apple and Google to delist the Proton Mail app from their respective app stores.

Proton Mail will possibly be blocked by Indian govt

Moreover, the ban or “block” will be enforced by the Department of Telecommunications, given that the final block order is sent to the body first. At the time of writing, it hasn’t been. The app is live at the time of writing, and so is the website, but we expect an order to be sent out very soon. However, as the report reveals, how the situation will be handled can’t be said for certain.

This move also falls in line with India banning encrypted apps like Threema and Briar last year, on grounds that these apps were being used by terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir. However, this is not the first time that Proton has ended up in a situation like this. In 2022, India’s refreshed VPN privacy policy caused Proton VPN to pull its physical servers out of the country.

Furthermore, Proton Mail has confirmed to HT about having received a “possible block” notice from MeitY “a few days ago.” However, they are not so happy about it.

According to the report, an official statement from Proton read, “We condemn a potential block as a misguided measure that only serves to harm ordinary people. Blocking access to Proton is an ineffective and inappropriate response to the reported threats. It will not prevent cybercriminals from sending threats with another email service and will not be effective if the perpetrators are located outside of India.”

According to a Proton spokesperson, they are “currently working to resolve this situation” with the Indian government. Further, they added that they work to “routinely remove users who are found to be doing so and are willing to cooperate wherever possible within international cooperation agreements”.

With cyberattacks on the rise, educational institutions have always been a prime target due to a general lack of cybersecurity measures. However, is blocking Proton Mail or similar platforms going to prevent that from happening? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

SOURCE Hindustan Times
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