An investigation by a global media consortium recently indicated that military-grade malware from Israel-based NSO Group is being used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents. The list reportedly includes 189 journalists, more than 600 politicians and government officials, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists and several heads of state. Many of them are from India.
Reports on Sunday indicated that the phone numbers of hundreds of well known Indians may have been targeted for hacking through an Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies. A day later, outraged Opposition leaders are now demanding a probe and hitting out at the Centre over the claim. The government however has dismissed the allegations, saying it "has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever".
While the investigators are yet to disclose names, reports indicate that More than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge have been targeted. The list also includes scores of business persons and activists in the country.
"We know what he’s been reading- everything on your phone!" read a somewhat cryptic tweet from Rahul Gandhi in response to an earlier post of his own. "#Pegasus" he added.
Citing the Centre's denial, fellow Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wanted to know if other government's were using the software to spy on prominent Indian citizens. In an interview with The Quint, he sought an "independent enquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge" over the allegations.
"Government of India has denied resorting to unauthorised surveillance. The question this raises is, if Pegasus is only sold to governments, which other governments (China/Pakistan?) are using it to snoop on prominent Indian citizens? Shouldn't the authorities call for an independent investigation?" he asked on Twitter.
Others including Congress leader Milind Deora brought up India's National Cyber Security Policy. "With zero safeguards in place, we are more vulnerable than we think," he warned.
(With inputs from agencies)