WhatsApp confirmed that an Israeli spyware, called Pegasus, was used by operators to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India.
A WhatsApp spokesperson speaking with The Indian Express said that WhatsApp was aware of those targeted and had reached out to them. The Facebook owned company has however, declined to reveal the identities and “exact number” of those who were targeted.
NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm is reportedly behind the technology called “Pegasus” that helped government spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.
Mostly diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials were targeted.
The spyware requires the target to click on an exploit link which then allows the operator to penetrate security features on the phone and installs Pegasus without the user’s knowledge. The operator can then control the phone and gain access to private information like passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages from popular mobile messaging apps.
WhatsApp had contacted and alerted the targets that they had been under “state-of-the-art surveillance for a two-week period until May 2019.” In May, WhatsApp updated the app and launched a probe into how the hack worked and affected people.
WhatsApp is now suing NSO, the Israeli company for building the Pegasus technology that allowed sophisticated hackers or government officials to gain access to a WhatsApp user’s phone.
With the reveal the Modi Government has come under a scanner if it used the services of the Israeli firm to spy on its citizens.
After the expose, the Indian Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad summoned Whatsapp.
Ravi Shankar Prasad in a statement said that the Government of India was committed to protecting privacy of its citizens but added that the government had all powers for interception, highliging past bugging exposes of the previous government.