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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

France has launched investigation into India’s alleged Pegasus Snoopgate

IndiaFrance has launched investigation into India's alleged Pegasus Snoopgate

France has launched an investigation into alleged Pegasus Snoopgate and France opened a probe into irregularities in the Rafale deal as well.

Congress leader and former president of the party, Rahul Gandhi was a potential target of spyware, according to multiple reports.  At least two mobile phone accounts used by Rahul Gandhi were among 300 verified numbers listed as potential targets by an “official Indian client” of the private tech firm NSO Group, as per a report from the Pegasus Project.

Shashi Tharoor, Congress leaders calls for an independent probe while outrage floods the country where over 300 mobile phones, 40 senior journalists, three opposition leaders, two union ministers, senior govt officials, and many others’ phones were bugged by the software, Pegasus.

The explosive Pegasus controversy has ignited bombshell revelations of a covert surveillance system allegedly used in countries, including India, across the globe to target prominent voices of opposition, dissent, and critique.  Top politicians, lawyers, journalists, and other persons of interest are allegedly being snooped on.

Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli NSO Group and, as reportedly claimed by the developers, is sold only to “vetted governments.” The Guardian has called the alleged Pegasus Snoopgate a “global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon” by “authoritarian governments” across the world.

The ten countries listed as NSO clients in the Pegasus reports include India, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with ‘hack targets’ present across 45 countries.

Since the Israeli firm specializes in what are cyber-weapons, the spyware can be understood as a “snoop” tool armed with the potential for similar operations. Pegasus can be used to infect and infiltrate Apple and Android mobile devices to hack into private data via apps, which can then be transmitted back to the hacker, with the victim oblivious to the breach.

As per reports by the Pegasus Project collaborators, approximately 50,000 phone numbers have surfaced worldwide as Pegasus ‘targets’. However, the number for how many were successfully hacked cannot be ascertained without forensic analysis.

Joanna Slater, India correspondent for The Post reporting on the Pegasus Project, noted, “We found forensic evidence that it [Pegasus] was active on Indian phones as recently as *last week*.”

Pegasus first came to national notice in India back in 2019 upon similar allegations over data privacy concerns on WhatsApp.

Indian women on the Pegasus watchlist reportedly include Dr Gagandeep Kang; survivor in the CJI Gogoi case; journalists Rohini Singh, Swati Chaturvedi, Vijaita Singh and Smita Sharma, among others; activist Rupali Jadhav arrested under UAPA.

The BJP’s prime political contender and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi‘s name was revealed as a potential surveillance target on Monday, along with political strategist Prashant Kishor and Union Ministers in the Modi government including newly appointed IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who dismissed the Pegasus reports in Parliament the same day and Lok Sabha member Prahlad Singh Patel.

The alarming developments of Pegasus had led France to set up an investigation into alleged Pegasus Snoopgate and earlier France too opened a probe into irregularities in the Rafale deal as well.

Is the government so neurotic that they are spying on normal citizens as alleged to be doing so?  Usually, spyware is used for high-grade criminals and terrorists.  The present Pegasus software inserted into individuals’ phones will turn the nation into the sinking sands of fear, insecurity, and paranoia, which is not healthy for India.

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