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India used Pegasus spyware to target high-profile journalists: Amnesty

Byusanewscart.com

Dec 28, 2023

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Forensic analyses enabled thanks to cybersecurity research published after Pegasus user handbook leaked

The word Pegasus and binary code are displayed on a smartphone which is placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken May 4, 2022. — Reuters
The word Pegasus and binary code are displayed on a smartphone which is placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken May 4, 2022. — Reuters
 

A recent joint investigation by Amnesty International and an American publication, The Washington Post, has revealed that the Indian government has been using the notorious Pegasus spyware to target prominent journalists.

Developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and sold to governments worldwide, this spyware allows access to a phone’s messages, emails, photos, call recordings, location data and even its camera.

According to the National Herald, an Indian newspaper, the spyware used both IP addresses and domain names to reach its targets.

Since a rival leaked the Pegasus user handbook in 2016, there has been enough research published in the field of cybersecurity to enable forensic analyses.

As domain names are usually sold for a minimum of a year, the Israeli spyware was typically employed for several months of target surveillance.

According to AFP, citing the investigation’s findings, revealed that journalists Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire and Anand Mangnale of The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project were among those targeted with the spyware on their iPhones, with the latest known case occurring in October.

“Our latest findings show that increasingly, journalists in India face the threat of unlawful surveillance simply for doing their jobs, alongside other tools of repression including imprisonment under draconian laws, smear campaigns, harassment, and intimidation,” said Donncha O Cearbhaill, Head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab.

While India’s government did not immediately respond, it denied similar accusations in 2021 that it used Pegasus spyware to surveil political opponents, activists and journalists.

Last month, Indian media reported that the country’s cyber security unit was investigating allegations by opposition politicians of attempted phone tapping after they reported receiving Apple iPhone warnings of “state-sponsored attackers”.

In that case, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the information and technology minister, said the government was “concerned” by the complaints.

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