After a meeting between interministerial officials and VLC executives (1), the website's ban was lifted; however, the precise reasons why it was unbanned have not been made public. The application was sending user data to a hostile nation while interacting with an app's server that had previously been blocked.
The ministry had noticed that one of the 54 apps that MeitY (2) had blocked in February of this year, Onmyoji Arena, was interacting with VideoLan's website. Under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, the country blocked access to the URL videolan.org, from which the VLC Media Player software could be downloaded.
However, the VLC mobile apps continued to function normally. Last month, VideoLan sent a legal memo to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Department of Telecom, inquiring why the website had been blocked nationwide. Many Indian users could not access the website or even download the program on their systems.
The Internet Freedom Foundation in India (3) assisted the organization, which also wanted a copy of the blocking order used to block the URL. In June, IFF sent an RTI to the DoT, requesting information on why the website had been disabled.
The official Twitter account for VLC Media Player tweeted that the ban had been lifted and the website was now accessible to most users in India shortly after the DoT forwarded the request to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. They also contacted the Internet Freedom Foundation for more information.
But why was it banned in the first place?
The government restricted access to it temporarily; it was still available from well-known hosting services and third-party websites. However, one should always download software, even freeware like the VLC Media Player, from trusted and official websites because such downloads risk bringing infected files that could enable malicious actors to cause significant harm.
Cybersecurity experts alleged in April of this year that a hacker group in China called Cicada was exploiting VLC Media Player to introduce malware into the networks as part of a cyberattack campaign backed by the Chinese government. Most of the individuals downloading files from the videolan.org website were the targets of these hackers.
The Cicada cyberattack (4), which was reported to have affected three continents, was alleged to be intended for espionage and targeted various non-governmental organizations and those engaged in political, legal, and religious activities (NGOs). Threat actor Cicada, also known as menuPass, Potassium, Red Apollo, Stone Panda, and APT10, was identified as the hacker and was responsible for the attack.
After gaining access to the target PC, the attacker used VLC Media Players to install a modified loader on compromised devices, according to research conducted by Symantec, a division of the American semiconductor manufacturing company Broadcom. Additionally, the platform was prohibited along with the 54 Chinese apps that the Indian government outlawed in February of this year.
Note that: VLC was developed and is supported by a French organization; it is not a product of China.