An investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organisations revealed that India was among a number of countries that used software sold by the Israeli surveillance company ‘NSO Group’ to hack the smartphones of human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists all over the world.
The investigation revealed that the NSO Group’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, had been used to spy on over 50,000 phone numbers of individuals identified as people of interest by the NSO Group’s clients since 2016.
Two of the numbers registered to, or previously known to have been used by, Prime Minister Imran Khan were also targeted by the Israeli spyware.During the reign of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the software was supposedly used to hack the premier’s phone numbers.
According to the report, the list included the phone numbers of 300 Indian ministers, opposition politicians, journalists, scientists, and human rights activists.It also included the phone numbers of over 40 Indian journalists from well-known publications such as the Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and the Indian Express.
Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting, responded to the revelations by saying he was “extremely concerned.”
“The Modi government’s inhumane policies have dangerously sharply divided India and the region,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Shireen Mazari, the Minister for Human Rights, revealed that “part two” of the report revealing how the Government of India checked up on its own ministers and journalists is expected today.
The Pegasus malware has been in the news since it was discovered in 2016 that it was being used to spy on dissidents in the UAE.
The NSO Group maintains that the malware is only meant to be used against criminals and terrorists, but the revelations have raised concerns about privacy and how the software is being abused by the group’s clients.