New Delhi, Oct 31 : Facebook-owned platform WhatsApp has revealed that several Indian journalists and human rights activists have been targets of surveillance by operators using Israeli spyware Pegasus.It has filed a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a US federal court in San Francisco in which WhatsApp alleged that the Israeli NSO Group targeted some 1,400 WhatsApp users with Pegasus.
Al least 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 a two-week period until May 2019.
Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group developed the malicious software to steal valuable information from those using the messaging app.
NSO has denied the allegations made by WhatsApp. Stating that it will contend the allegations, it said: “the sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licenced government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime“.
WhatsApp said it believes that the attack targeted atleast 100 members of civil society. This number may grow higher as more victims come forward.
“Tools that enable surveillance into our private lives are being abused, and the proliferation of this technology into the hands of irresponsible companies and governments puts us all at risk,” Cathcart said in an op-ed in The Washington Post.
Cathcart asserted that WhatsApp was committed to the fundamental right to privacy and that it is working to stay ahead of those who seek to violate that right.A cybersecurity research lab at the University of Toronto, Citizen Lab, had helped WhatsApp investigate the hacking incident.
The NSO Group claims Pegasus has been sold only to government agencies. “We license our product only to vetted and legitimate government agencies,” it said.