Pegasus: An Israeli spyware that spied on Indian activists and journalists

Pegasus: An Israeli spyware that spied on Indian activists and journalists
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Highlights

Pegasus can do everything. With just a missed call, it can grab every item from any mobile that too without leaving any electronic trace.

Pegasus can do everything. With just a missed call, it can grab every item from any mobile that too without leaving any electronic trace.

As per the complaint, Pegasus is capable of investigating on three levels: initial data extraction, passive monitoring and active collection.

WhatsApp explained in its written submission that, "Pegasus was designed, in part, to intercept communications sent to and from a device, including communications over iMessage, Skype, Telegram, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and others."

A WhatsApp spokesperson said, "Indian journalists and human rights activists have been the target of surveillance, and while I cannot reveal their identities and the exact number, I can say that it is not an insignificant number."

Around two dozen academics, lawyers, Dalit activists and journalists in India were contacted and alerted by WhatsApp that their phones had been under state-of-the-art surveillance for two weeks until May 2019

The NSO Group says Pegasus has been sold only to the government agencies. It said, "We license our product only to vetted and legitimate government agencies."

The NSO Group: "In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today's allegations and will vigorously fight them. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists." After doubts about this technology were first raised in May, the NSO Group said it put in place a 'Human Rights Policy' on September 19 which "further embeds human rights protections throughout our business and governance systems".

"We believe this attack targeted at least 100 members of civil society which is an unmistakable pattern of abuse. This number may grow higher as more victims come forward," it added.

Emails, phone calls and text messages to Home Secretary A K Bhalla and Electronics and Information Technology Secretary A P Sawhney for explanations remained unanswered.

In September 2018, Canada-based cybersecurity group Citizen Lab said: "We found suspected NSO Pegasus infections associated with 33 of the 36 Pegasus operators we identified in 45 countries" including India. The 2018 report goes on to point to an India link active from June 2017 to September 2018. "We identified five operators that we believe are focusing on Asia. One operator, Ganges, used a politically themed domain."

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