Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said reports of Pegasus Spyware being used for spying on Indian journalists, ministers, government officials and opposition leaders are an attempt to malign the Indian democracy. On the first day of the Monsoon session in Lok Sabha today, the Minister of Electronics & Information Technology (Meity) stated, "the press reports have appeared a day before the Monsoon session of Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence."
He further added, "In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including in the Supreme Court. The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well established institutions."
Vaishaw also pointed out that NSO, the company which owns the technology, had said, 'NSO Group believes that claims that you have been provided with, are based on misleading interpretation of leaked data from basic information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no bearing on the list of the customers' targets of Pegasus or any other NSO products. Such services are openly available to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, and are commonly used by governmental agencies as well as by private companies worldwide. It is also beyond dispute that the data has nothing to do with surveillance or with NSO, so there can be no factual basis to suggest that a use of the data somehow equates to surveillance.'
"NSO has also said that the list of countries shown using Pegasus is incorrect and many countries mentioned are not even our clients. It also said that most of its clients are western countries. It is evident that NSO has also clearly rubbished the claims in the report," said the minister.
He further highlighted that according to the report, there is a consortium which has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon. However, the report says that: "The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. And without subjecting a phone to this technical analysis, it is not possible to conclusively state whether it witnessed an attack attempt or was successfully compromised. The report itself clarifies that the presence of a number does not amount to snooping."
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