French hacker raises questions about Modi govt's Aarogya Setu - what exactly is triangulation?

Following Rahul Gandhi's concerns about the Aarogya Setu app, a French Android applications developer and cyber security expert, using the moniker Elliot Alderson, felt obliged to check into the Modi government app himself.

With that said, Alderson brought in a technical term in-question for the Aarogya Setu app developers.

"Do you know what Triangulation is?" he asked the app developers.

What is Triangulation?

According to Techopedia, Triangulation is the process of determining the exact location of a radio transmitter. This can be done using various techniques such as through radial distance, direction or receiving a signal from two to three different points and then assessing the exact location by overlapping of the three radial distances. Triangulation in cellular communication is commonly used to pinpoint the exact geographical location of a user.

Triangulation is widely used in wireless mobile communication to find the location of a cell phone user. Triangulation is utilized in cruise navigation, radar systems, GPS systems in vehicles and other such mobile devices. It plays an important role in emergencies and vast setups like 911 are based on triangulation strategy of locating the location in question. A triangulation mechanism can be affected by the presence of steel structures, water towers, communication posts and signal jammers. Using two or more points to determine the location of radio transmitter or cell phone user give much more reliable results than relying on just one.

What is Aarogya Setu app?

Aarogya Setu, a coronavirus tracking app, launched by the Union Health Ministry on April 2.

Developed by the National Informatics Centre, a part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the app helps users identify whether they are at a risk of COVID-19 infection.

The mobile app uses phone location and Bluetooth sensors to detect user's movements. If two people, who have installed the app, come in close proximity with each other and if one of them happens to be at a risk of the coronavirus infection, the other person will be immediately informed by a notification on his/her mobile phone. The app also provides precautionary measures that people can use to stay safe amidst the pandemic.

The Google Play description reads, "Aarogya Setu is a mobile application developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India in our combined fight against COVID-19. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19."

The app is available in 11 languages and is available on both Android as well as iOS devices.

However, after certain 'findings' by the ethical hacker, the Aarogya Setu team responded by issuing a statement on the app's data security.

Following the team's statement, Alderson believes the statement had 'nothing to see'.

"Basically, you said "nothing to see here" We will see. I will come back to you tomorrow," he wrote.

Earlier today, the ethical hacker took to Twitter and said his 'prediction' about the app was 'correct' and he will provide a detailed article on the same.

"My prediction was correct. Thank you all for your messages, emails and sms. I’m doing my best to answer to everyone. Welcome to the new 20K people who follow since yesterday. Today, I will write a detailed article on the @SetuAarogya issue. It should be ready end of today," the ethical hacker wrote.

The app is available in 11 languages and is available on both Android as well as iOS devices. It has been downloaded by 90 million people so far.

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