India has banned VLC Media Player, the hugely popular open-source, cross-platform media player software. While the app is still available for download on both the App Store on Apple and Play Store on Google, access to videolan.org, the official VLC media player website, has been restricted.
Despite the ban, the media player can still be downloaded on Windows devices. There is also no problem in running the software installed on smartphones and laptops.
While there is no official information regarding any ban from the government, access to VLC website has been restricted by major ISPs such as Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea. The website can still be accessed using VPN service.
Reports said, the VLC Media Player was banned five months ago without any notice from either the VideoLan organisation or the government. As the apps continued to work and only access to the website was restricted, the ban went unnoticed.
While the Centre is yet to come out with any official information on the issue, in April, cybersecurity experts warned that a China-based hacker group — Cicada — used VLC Media Player to deliver malware as part of a Chinese government-backed cyberattack campaign. The government has not made public any official report on the alleged attack and claims that the Chinese government was involved.
The alleged cyberattack by Cicada spread across three continents and was aimed at espionage, reports said. It targeted several groups involved in legal, political, and religious activities and non-government organisations. The hacking was traced to Cicada — also known as Stone Panda, menuPass, APT10, Potassium, and Red Apollo — that has been active for over 15 years.
There is evidence that Cicada gained access to some of the networks it penetrated via a Microsoft Exchange server, a sign that they took advantage of a known vulnerability on devices without security patches, the reports said.
Researchers associated with Symantec, an arm of American semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom, found that after accessing the target PC, the attacker used the VLC Media Player to install a modified loader.