1. A global investigative project revealed that about 50,000 phone numbers in the world were being spied on by using Pegasus. Of which, 300 were verified Indian numbers.
2. The Indian phone numbers include those of politicians, members of the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, activists and others.
3. The numbers of those in the database include over 40 journalists, three major opposition figures, one constitutional authority, two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organisations and scores of businesspersons, The Wire
reported, adding it will publish the names in the coming days.
4. The analysis of the data by The Wire which is part of the global collaboration shows that most of the names were targeted between 2018 and 2019, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections but there was not enough evidence to suggest all phones had been hacked.
5. Once installed, Pegasus can harvest data from emails, text messages such as SMS, WhatsApp chats, call logs, contact list and GPS data and transmit it to the attacker. It can also activate microphone, call recording and camera to provide surveillance capabilities to the attacker.
6. According to The Wire, forensic tests conducted on some phones associated with the target numbers revealed clear signs of targeting by Pegasus spyware - a job made easier if the device was an Apple iPhone.
7. The Israeli company, NSO Group, which sells Pegasus, denied the allegations, claimed that it only offers its spyware to "vetted governments". The company has allegedly sold its spyware to intelligence, military and law-enforcement agencies of 40 countries, and representatives said it was "considering a defamation lawsuit".
8. The Indian government, however, has denied involvement in the hacking, saying, "The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever."
9. A statement released by the Centre said, "In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by the Indian State. Those reports were categorically denied by all parties including WhatsApp in the Supreme Court. This news report, thus, also appears to be a similar fishing expedition, based on conjecture and exaggeration to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions.
10. Interestingly, in 2019, according to a few reports, Facebook-owned WhatsApp had confirmed the use of Pegasus to target journalists and human right activists in India. WhatsApp had made this disclosure in a law suit filed in a US court in San Francisco.