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Friday, February 26, 2021

Hacker Elliot Alderson claims Koo user data leak; CEO replies ‘shown voluntarily’

French cybersecurity researcher Elliot Alderson said that he could access personal data of Koo users, such as date of birth, marital status and gender.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: February 12, 2021 8:35:52 am
Koo appKoo had won the Atmanirbhar App Challenge.

Home-grown microblogging platform Koo, which is being promoted by Union ministers, politicians and film actors, came under criticism Thursday for bugs in the app that allegedly cause it to leak users’ personal data.

A French cybersecurity researcher, known by the moniker Elliot Alderson on Twitter, posted early Thursday that he could access personal data of Koo users, including e-mail ID, date of birth, marital status and gender. “You asked so I did it. I spent 30 min on this new Koo app. The app is leaking the personal data of users: email, dob, name, marital status, gender…” Alderson tweeted, along with redacted screenshots of the data he was able to access.

In response to information put out by Alderson, Koo’s co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna said that the data visible is “something that the user has voluntarily shown on their profile of Koo”. “It cannot be termed a data leak. If you visit a user profile you can see it anyway,” he added.

This was countered by Alderson, who shared a screenshot of the Koo profile of an IAS officer whose data Alderson claimed he could access, without it being visible on the profile page as pointed out by Radhakrishna. He tagged the Koo CEO in his tweet.

Following Alderson’s tweet, Radhakrishna replied: “We’re attempting to do something for our country, India. All help is appreciated. If you want to help out in this journey of ours please write to me on ar@kooapp.com and we can take a look at all the feedback you have. Thanks!”

Koo, which has crossed over 3 million downloads – over half of which came in the last 30-40 days – has suddenly gained traction over the last few days with union ministers like Piyush Goyal, other prominent personalities, and government departments and senior officials promoting it. Given the shot in the arm Koo is getting from these quarters at a time when its biggest rival Twitter is embroiled in a spat with the Centre, industry insiders are suggesting that the government is looking to push the app as an alternative to Twitter.

Following a meeting between Twitter’s senior executives and IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney on Wednesday, the government said that Twitter was welcome to do business in India but it “must also respect the Indian laws and democratic institutions”.

Meanwhile, the Koo App on Wednesday had crashed for a while after seeing higher than anticipated traffic. Radhakrishna had told The Indian Express that the company did not expect the load and will be looking to scale up going ahead to avoid such scenarios.

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