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'Target List in India Is Not Ours:' Pegasus Maker Denies Having Access to Data

Alleging that this is false information, the NSO group insisted that they do not have access to the customer data.

Published
India
2 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pegasus spyware injects malware using zero-click which does not require interaction with the user of the targeted phone. Image used for representational purposes.</p></div>
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The NSO Group that developed the Pegasus spyware, said on Tuesday that the firm was not responsible for the list of Indian phone numbers reportedly targeted for surveillance by the government.

A NSO spokesperson told NDTV that the firm is not associated with the list published by Forbidden Stories, the Paris-based group that worked with Amnesty International to expose the issue.

A report published by news organisations across the world on Sunday, 18 July, revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of several journalists, politicians, government officials and rights activists.

Alleging that this was false information, the source insisted that the company does not have access to the data of its customers.

The company also assured to conduct an investigation "if NSO receives credible proof of misuse of its technologies".

Parliament Panel to Hold Meeting on Data Security and Privacy on 28 July

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology will question officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 28 July. The parliamentary panel is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

On 19 July, the company put out a statement denying all allegations and stating that its programme was for "vetted governments for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts".

On Tuesday, Tharoor said recent revelations on the use of the Pegasus spyware were a matter of national security concern.

“Since this product is sold only to vetted governments, the question arises which government? If the Government of India says they have not done it, some other government did it then it is a more serious national security concern,” Tharoor told ANI.

IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, whose number was also on the list, according to The Wire, said that illegal surveillance was not possible in India. Commenting on the timing of the expose, he said it "can't be a coincidence" that they were published a day before the start of Parliament's monsoon session.

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The list includes phone numbers used by at least 40 Indian journalists, Opposition leaders, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, virologist Gagandeep Kang, former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, and an ex-Supreme Court staffer, who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment.

The phone numbers of the personal secretaries of former Karnataka Chief Ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah were also chosen as potential targets for surveillance in the run up to the collapse of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in the state in 2019.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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