- Government has sought an explanation from WhatsApp after the Facebook-owned company confirmed that some Indian users of its app came under surveillance using Israeli spyware Pegasus.
How does Pegasus come into your phone?
- The code is transmitted by calling the target phone on WhatsApp. The code enters the phone even if the call is not answered. According to some reports, the log of that call gets erased.
- According to The Citizen’s Lab of the University of Toronto, which worked with WhatsApp on identifying spyware victims, this is only one of the ways of delivering Pegasus. It notes several other cases such as alarming SMSs that prompt targets to click on a link.
What does Pegasus do?
- Once installed, Pegasus can send the target’s contacts, calendar events, phone calls on and messages on communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram to the spyware’s controller.
- It could steal messages from even services that offer encryption because it was taking the messages before the encryption process, according to anti-malware service Kaspersky.
- The controller can also turn the phone into a spying device by switching on its camera or microphone.
Indian users were among those impacted by the spyware and contacted by the company this week to assist them. Most targeted in India were journalists, Dalit and human rights activists and lawyers.
- In the investigations that followed, WhatsApp found that a total of 1,400 mobile numbers and devices were impacted globally. These included attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials.
- WhatsApp filed a complaint in a U.S. court earlier this week attributing the intrusion to NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm, which claims on its website that its products are used exclusively by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and terror.
According to The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the government was committed to protecting fundamental rights of citizens and reports of a breach of privacy of Indian citizens on WhatsApp were attempts to malign the government and are completely misleading.