Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi are among other world leaders who have been selected as potential targets of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware program by clients of the NSO Group cyberespionage firm, reveals an investigation by 17 media organizations.
Nearly 50,000 numbers were hacked through Israeli-made software.
According to a leading news outlet, the investigation suggested “widespread and continuing abuse” of NSO’s hacking software, described as malware that infects smartphones to enable the extraction of messages, photos and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones.
The leaked data had numbers once known to have been used by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Kashmiri leaders, Pakistani diplomats, Chinese journalists, Sikh activists and businesspeople known to be the subject of police investigations.
India prime minister Narendra Modi’s most prominent political rival, the opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, was twice selected as a potential surveillance target in leaked phone number data, making him one of dozens of Indian politicians, journalists, activists and government critics whose numbers were identified as possible targets for the Israeli company’s government clients.
However, NSO clarified that its product is intended only for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
In a statement on its website, the company denied the reporting by the 17 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.
“The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality,” the company said in the statement.
The statement further says “after checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report”.
Fawad's concern over reports of Modi regime using Israeli software for spying
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has expressed deep concern over reports that Indian government used Israeli software to spy on journalists and political opponents.
In a tweet he said he was "extremely concerned on news reports emerging from @guardiannews that Indian Govt used Israeli software to spy on Journalists, political opponents and politicians. Unethical policies of #ModiGovt have dangerously polarised India and the region... More details are emerging"