Thursday, August 8, 2019

WhatsApp Confirms Several Indian Lawyers, Activists And Journalists Were Targeted By Israeli Spyware

WhatsApp, has now revealed that several Indian journalists, lawyers and activists have been targets of an Israeli spyware named 'Pegasus' - a program that was created to snoop on select government officials, lawyers and journalists from 20 countries, one of which is India.

While news about the spyware and its origins broke back in May, WhatsApp confirming that a number of Indian users were targetted by Pegasus on Tuesday after the chat giant sued Israeli spyware firm, NSO Group. But in the interest of security, WhatsApp did not mention on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted.

Refusing to reveal identities or even an exact number of those targeted in India, WhatsApp said it had in May stopped a highly sophisticated cyber-attack that leveraged its video calling system to send malware to its users.

As of now WhatsApp has stated that the chat giant sent a special message to approximately 1,400 users that it has "reason to believe were impacted by this attack to directly inform them about what happened".

A WhatsApp spokesperson, meanwhile, stated that "Indian users were among those contacted by us this week".

Off WhatsApp's 1.5 billion users globally, India, alone accounts for about 400 million. Denying allegations, NSO said it provides "technology to licenced government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime" and is not "designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists."

India's IT Ministry has written to WhatsApp, asking for a detailed response by Monday, a response where the Facebook-owned company clearly provides a description of users compromised in India.

WhatsApp, earlier this week, filed a lawsuit in a California federal court against NSO Group, which allegedly developed the spyware, saying an attempt was made to infect approximately 1,400 "target devices" globally, including some in India, with malicious software to steal valuable information from those using the messaging app.

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