Drugs case: WhatsApp issues statement on chats being leaked

To get its hands on the chats, the NCB is said to have cloned the mobile phones of those questioned.
Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone
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Actor Deepika Padukone is set to record her statement in the drugs case at the Narcotics Control Bureau on Saturday, as part of an investigation that started with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, but has branched into other things. The investigation has thrown up several prominent names from the Bollywood industry after WhatsApp chats of conversations on banned drugs surfaced.

Concerns have been expressed over the safety of WhatsApp chats and many have questioned whether Facebook is making a genuine claim that privacy on WhatsApp is guaranteed by end-to-end encryption, citing that probe agencies are now using WhatsApp chats as evidence.

In a statement, WhatsApp said that the end-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and receiver can read what is sent and no one else, including the company, can access it.

In the statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “WhatsApp follows guidance provided by operating system manufacturers for on-device storage and we encourage people to take advantage of all the security features provided by operating systems such as strong passwords or biometric IDs to prevent third parties from accessing content stored on device."

To get its hands on the chats, the NCB is said to have cloned the mobile phones of Rhea Chakraborty, talent manager Jaya Saha and others, which gave them access to the WhatsApp chats of filmstars. The cloning of Rhea's mobile phone was done by the NCB during an investigation into a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case.

WhatsApp says on its security settings that there is end-to-end encryption for all their messages, but the media and message back-up on Google Drive or any such Cloud services aren't protected by WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption.

Which means even if a person deletes a chat or starts using a new phone, the backup of the chat is available in a cloud or drive, if thr person has chose to backup data. And if one is on a group chat, even if one of the persons on the group backup the chat, authorities can retrieve it.

To access encrypted WhatsApp data, and data from backup, security and investigating agencies can take a user's phone and create a 'clone' of it on another device. This gives them access even to deleted messages with a 'mirror image' of a phone after which all data can be transferred to the separate device.

Thereafter, it is only a matter of retrieving data which agencies do by involving forensic experts.

WhatsApp conversations have surfaced, reportedly between Rhea and others, and the probe agency is now focused on a group chat from 2017, allegedly between Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone and her manager Karishma Prakash.

As TNM reported earlier, the WhatsApp chats seem to have been retrieved from Jaya Saha'a backup, who was interrogated by the NCB. Jaya was also Sushant Singh Rajput's talent manager. Jaya, who is part of the Kwan Talent Management Agency, was also on this WhatsApp group with Deepika and Karishma.

The NCB has said that Jaya was questioned about her chats with several other celebrities. The NCB is now probing whether Jaya procured narcotics and banned drugs for these celebrities.

Jaya's name emerged after a chat about drugs between her and Rhea, who is in jail in connection with the drugs case, was accessed by the Enforcement Directorate in the PMLA case mentioned earlier.

Actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor are set to appear before the NCB at its Mumbai office on Saturday in connection with the drugs case. Actor Rakul Preet Singh has also been summoned to appear before the NCB on Friday.

With IANS inputs

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