Indian Army develops its own WhatsApp-like messaging application for soldiers, calls it ‘SAI’

Indian Army has launched a WhatsApp-like in-house messaging application called “SAI” for its soldiers to prevent leaking of any classified information.

Indian Army officers now need not to depend on external mobile applications for communicating with each other as they have launched a secure application of their own to chat amongst themselves. The move is considered to be a big push for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s AtmaNirbhar Bharat mission. The Indian Army will now have its own messaging application similar to WhatsApp which will be used by the security forces to communicate securely.

The Army has developed an in-house messaging application called “Secure Application for Internet (SAI)” for its personnel to prevent “leaking” of any classified information to enemy agencies. The application supports end-to-end secure voice, text, and video calling services for Android platform over the internet. The application will be similar to commercially available messaging applications like WhatsApp, Telegram, and SAMVAD.

The messaging application has been developed by the Army’s Corps of Signals, which handles military communication. According to the reports, SAI was first developed by Colonel Sai Shankar, the commanding officer of a signals unit in Rajasthan. The application has been named after him.  

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, “SAI will utilise end-to-end encryption messaging protocol and scores over on security features with local in-house servers and coding, which can be tweaked as per requirements.” As per the statement, the application has been vetted by CERT-in empanelled auditor and Army Cyber Group, and the process for filing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) hosting the infrastructure on Nation Informatics Centre and working on iOS platform is currently in progress.

SAI developed for security reasons:

SAI will be utilised pan Army to facilitate secure messaging within the service. Developing an indigenous application for messaging in the Army was important because the servers of most of the popular messaging apps are based outside India, which could pose a major security risk, especially when it comes to sensitive military communication.  

With this local and in-house server-based app, critical and sensitive messages can be securely sent without any fear of getting leaked. Another important reason behind the development of SAI is that with its arrival the limitations of the Army just restricting itself to telephones will end. The Army is particularly restricted to landlines, except in areas of Jammu and Kashmir, where there is secure limited mobile connectivity. 

Apart from this, military communications mostly take place on secure intranet networks for all the three services but have limitations in terms of connectivity due to geographical differences.

Hybrid Warfare is connected to security:

In June, the Army had come up with a list of around 89 applications, to be banned for use by the service personnel. Most of the apps on the list were Chinese apps including TikTok, WeChat, SHAREit, CamScanner, PUBG, and Truecaller. The Army officers holding sensitive appointments were also asked to delete their Facebook and Instagram due to the national security risks.

Having a secure mode of communication is obviously very much necessary for the security forces, especially when the hybrid warfare technique is being used by many countries today to attack. The concepts of “hybrid warfare” is built on longstanding military strategies and is used by adversaries more often to exploit information technology vulnerabilities to achieve an outcome.

While the concept is fairly new, its effects and outcomes are in news nowadays. Recently, a Chinese company was seen spying on various political leaders and famous personalities of many countries and was tracking each and every social media activity of theirs in order to collect data that can be further used to their and their country’s advantage.

Features of SAI:

With Chinese and Pakistani online espionage agents constantly on a hunt to obtain sensitive information, the Army last year directed its personnel to avoid the use of WhatsApp for official work. Since then, the Army was looking for an Indian version of popular messaging apps. With the development of SAI, the Army will now more freely be able to use messaging services.

Here’s all you need to know about the app:

  1. SAI is similar to WhatsApp and Telegram
  2. The app comes with an end-to-end encryption protocol
  3. Servers of SAI are hosted locally
  4. So far, the app will only be able to run on android phones, the iOS version of the app for iPhones is still in progress.
  5. SAI app will be utilised pan Army to facilitate secure messaging within the services.

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