As per the report by a global consortium of media organizations, devices of two serving union ministers, three opposition leaders, one constitutional authority, current and former heads of security organizations, administrators, and 40 senior journalists and activists from India were allegedly hacked using Israeli company surveillance software named Pegasus and put on surveillance to know the data.
The first reports released on Sunday night only released the names of journalists who were allegedly attacked in India. The list includes Sushant Singh while working for India Express, Shishir Gupta, executive editor of the Hindustan Times Group, Prashant Jha, its editorial page editor, defense reporter Rahul Singh, and reporters from HT sister newspaper Mint.
The leaked database reportedly contained thousands of phone numbers, believed to have been listed by various government clients of an Israeli surveillance technology company, including more than 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers, including ministers, numbers phone numbers used by opposition leaders, journalists, and legal departments. Communities, businessmen, government officials, scientists, human rights defenders, etc.
“The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people have no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by the Indian State. Those reports also had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Indian Supreme Court”, ANI reported
What is Pegasus?
Pegasus is software produced by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group. Pegasus sends a malicious software link to the target user, and once the user clicks on it, the code that enables monitoring is installed on the person’s phone.
According to Citizen Lab, once Pegasus is installed and the mobile phone is exploited, the attacker can have full access to the target user’s mobile phone.
Then it starts to communicate with the operator’s command and control (C&C) server to receive and execute operator commands and send back the target’s private data from popular mobile messaging applications, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and real-time voice calls. Operators can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activities near the phone.
The use of Pegasus software for spying activities first appeared in 2016, when Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates, was blocked by a text message link on his iPhone 6.