How Israeli spyware Pegasus used to spy on Indian Journalists, activists before LS elections
New Delhi, Oct 31: Facebook-owned WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli sypware Peagasus.
Israeli NSO Group targeted some 1,400 WhatsApp users with Pegasus:
WhatsApp said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities' spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users. These users span across four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. However, it did not say on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted.
IT Ministry seeks WhatsApp's response on spyware issue:
The IT Ministry on Thursday sought a detailed response from WhatsApp on the issue of Israeli spyware that was allegedly used to target Indian journalists and human rights activists through its platform. WhatsApp has been asked to submit its reply by November 4. The ministry has written to WhatsApp seeking its response on the matter, a senior government official told PTI.
Legal action against spyware attacks:
WhatsApp has today said NSO spyware was used to exploit a vulnerability in the app to target approximately 1,400 people between approximately April 2019 and May 2019. One hundred of those targeted were human rights defenders according to WhatsApp, in countries around the world.
What is Pegasus?
Developed by NSO Group, an Israeli firm, Pegasus is spyware that can read text messages, track calls, collect passwords, trace location and access video camera of devices running certain versions of iOS, Apple's mobile operating system.
How does Pegasus work?
It sends out "exploit links" that tempt users to click on it. Once a user clicks on the link, the malware can penetrate a phone's security features, and Pegasus gets installed on the device without the owner's knowledge or permission.
In this instance, a missed voice call on WhatsApp may have sufficed to open up the phone and infiltrate it. "In May 2019 we stopped a highly-sophisticated cyber-attack that exploited our video calling system in order to send malware to the mobile devices of a number of WhatsApp users," the Facebook-owned company said in a statement. It was discovered in 2016. After installation on an iPhone, Pegasus can gather information from apps such as iMessage, Gmail, Viber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Skype.