Ten governments, tens of thousands of targets . . .
A media consortium’s revelation that at least ten governments have used spyware called Pegasus has sent shockwaves worldwide and prompted an Israeli government inspection today into the company that licenses it. Once installed onto targets’ mobile phones through vulnerabilities in messaging apps, the software can transmit any data on the phone to the Pegasus client. Journalists, activists, opposition politicians, and numerous world leaders have been listed in a leaked database of “persons of interest” allegedly selected by clients. Pegasus owner NSO Group, whose licences to foreign governments must be approved by the Israeli defence minister, denied that those in the database were targeted. However, the University of Toronto research unit Citizen Lab, which previously found evidence of Pegasus operations in over 45 countries, has independently validated the reporting.
Government of India denies wrongdoing as opponents, journalists cry foul . . .
The media consortium identified the Indian government as a Pegasus client. Its reporting alleges that India selected targets including domestic journalists, opposition politicians, and non-Indian individuals such as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and top advisors of the Dalai Lama. These findings have ignited a political scandal that has seen charges of “treason” levelled in Parliament and an investigation launched by state governments. The Indian government has vehemently denied that it has conducted any “illegal surveillance” but has not denied using the spyware. Government supporters have also questioned the validity of the reporting and accused the media consortium of a conspiracy to defame Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pakistan urges UN investigation after PM’s phone number appears on leaked database . . .
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office today condemned the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to target a phone number used by PM Khan and numerous other Pakistani targets, including ambassadors and journalists, and repeated a call for UN bodies to investigate. Pakistan also announced a new national cybersecurity policy and agency this week, specifically identifying the Pegasus incident as an example of a threat that the agency would tackle. The scandal will likely further complicate and hinder a fickle rapprochement between Pakistan and India that began earlier this year with a border ceasefire and the resumption of talks over Indus River water rights for the first time in three years.
- Foreign Policy: India's Watergate moment
- The Guardian: Revealed: Leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon
- The Wire India: Pegasus Project: 155 names revealed by The Wire on snoop list so far