Apart from those accused in the Elgar Parishad case, their families and friends were also snooped on by Pegasus. Image used for representation only.
Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to be used to snoop on at least nine numbers belonging to rights activists, lawyers, and academics who are arrested in the Elgar Parishad case between June 2018 and October 2020, reveals the leaked databased accessed by The Wire.
Pegasus, a product of Israeli cyberweapons company NSO Group, was earlier in the news in late 2019 when it was found that spies used the spyware to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users around the world, including 121 Indians.
According to The Wire report, the list of activists who were tagged by the spyware include Hany Babu, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen, Gautam Navlakaha, Arun Ferreira, and Sudha Bharadwaj.
According to The Wire report, some of the phone numbers were chosen targets for snooping during significant events in the Elgar Parishad case. The report states Varvara Rao’s daughter's phone first appeared in the database around the time he was placed under house arrest in 2019.
The report states that in some cases, phone numbers of those accused were continued to be snooped on after they were seized by the authorities or were arrested.
Minal Gadling, wife of lawyer and activist Surendra Gadling, was also a target of the attack and her phone number appears in the list months after her husband was arrest, reported The Wire.
Pegasus exploits a vulnerability via WhatsApp to get into a user's device and gains access to all the apps on the phone.
The spyware contains a code that is capable of spying, collecting data, and reporting back on what the user does on the device – everything; calls, emails, texts, location, app data, etc. It remotely collects all the information about a target's device, wherever they are.
The report published by The Wire, said that it consisted of at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of over 40 senior journalists, Opposition leaders, government officials, and rights activists.
The leaked list of names was provided to The Wire and 15 other international news organisations by France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International, as part of a collaborative investigation called the 'Pegasus Project'.