Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—Two ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three opposition leaders, 40 journalists, and several businesspersons are among 300 persons in India whose phone numbers were allegedly targeted and hacked by using Pegasus spyware sold by Israeli Company NSO to its clients all over the world.
An investigation into the data leak carried out by the Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International found a list of 50,000 phone numbers that were of interest to the governments of 40 countries to whom the Israeli company sold the spy software.
The investigation, however, says that it does not mean that all the phones in the data list were hacked.
However, the Israeli company, in a statement, denied that it leaked out the data.
The company says that it does not operate the system and also does not maintain the data.
The NSO said that “it sells its technology solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to the vetted governments for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts.”
The news about the investigation was first published by Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, and 14 other publications.
Among the top journalists targeted in India include The Indian Express Deputy Editor Muzamil Jalil, who reports on Jammu and Kashmir and internal security, Hindustan Times executive editor Shishir Gupta, founder editors of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan and M K Venu, Vijaita Singh of The Hindu, Sandeep Unnithan of India Today and Rohini Singh, a regular writer for The Wire.
The list also includes the phone numbers of journalists from Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse, France 24, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, The Associated Press, the Economist, Voice of America and Reuters, etc.
The list also contains the phone numbers of several heads of state, diplomats, social and human rights activists, and members of royal families in several Arab countries.
The media reports say that India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Mexico, and Azerbaijan are among the company’s clients.
According to media reports, Pegasus software developed by the Israeli company infects the smartphone and steals all the information in smartphones, including email, text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook messages, contact names, and phone numbers in the phone.
The Indian Express Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha, in a statement, said that “surveillance of journalists is a breach of the Constitutional guarantees of freedom and privacy.”