Patanjali Ayurved Limited, a company promoted by Baba Ramdev, has launched an instant messaging app named Kimbho as a “swadeshi” alternative to WhatsApp. However, the Kimbho app - which surfaced on Android and iOS sometime late Wednesday - has been derided as a security nightmare by well known French security researcher who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson on Twitter. In fact, the app has already been taken down from Google Play, the app market place for Android, though it is still available for download on the Apple App Store. While Patanjali Ayurved’s promoter Baba Ramdev has not yet said anything about Kimbho, his official Twitter handle has retweeted a tweet about the app’s launch.
According to a screenshot shared on Twitter by the security researcher going by the name Alderson (@fs0c131y), the Kimbho app stores user data in easily readable JSON syntax. Calling the app a “joke” and a “security disaster,” he says he was able to access the messages of all users. He also showed in a video how easy it was “possible to choose a security code between 0001 and 9999 and send it to the number of your choice.”
Another Twitter user has pointed out that the new app is built on another app called Bolo, and the Patanjali team did not even replace Bolo’s name with Kimbho’s at various places within the app. Even the app description found on the Kimbho listing is the same as that of Bolo, except that the names have been replaced there. As mentioned above, the app is not available on Google Play anymore, but can still be found on Apple App Store. In fact, it is ranked fourth in the Social Networking category for free apps on the App Store, behind WhatsApp, Facebook, and Facebook Messenger.
Earlier, SK Tijarawala, reportedly a spokesperson of Patanjali Ayurved, had announced the launch of Kimbho on Twitter. According to him, Kimbho is a Sanskrit word that means "How are you? or What's new?” Interestingly, while the Android app was developed by Patanjali Communication, the iOS version lists Applies Inc as the developer.
Unsurprisingly, may users who downloaded the app are unhappy with it. One tweeted about getting server errors, while another said even the messages were not being delivered. On the App Store reviews for Kimbho, users say the app shows ‘Connecting’ for long periods, not allowing them to send messages to contacts. The calling option doesn’t seem to be working either, and users say there is no option to sign out of the app.
Faisal Kawoosa, Head — New Initiatives, CyberMedia Research (CMR), tweeted, “Can #kimbho create a space dominated by @WhatsApp just on being #swadeshi So far just around 5k installations and reviews are full of issues and concerns. Nevertheless, seems Patanjali is getting serious about communications.”
WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India.