Indian politicians and journalists on targets of surveillance operations carried out with the help of Pegasus spyware
More about it:
- French newspaper Le Monde reported that several Delhi-based diplomats were also on the list of potential targets for phone hacking from 2017-2021, along with a phone associated with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
- The telephone numbers of a British High Commission official and two officials of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and employees of international NGOs like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were also in the database of those targeted.
In the Past:
- In May 2019, WhatsApp identified that a bug in the app’s call function was used to install a malicious code into users’ phones.
- On October 29, it identified the malicious code as Pegasus, a spyware developed by an Israeli company, NSO. WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook have sued NSO in a U.S. court
What is Pegasus?
- Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyber arms firm NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones (and other devices) running most versions of iOS and Android
- The code is transmitted by calling the target phone on WhatsApp. The code enters the phone even if the call is not answered.
- The log of that call gets erased
- Once installed, Pegasus can send the target’s contacts, calendar events, phone calls on and messages on communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram to the spyware’s controller.
- It could steal messages from even services that offer encryption because it was taking the messages before the encryption process, according to anti-malware service Kaspersky.
- The controller can also turn the phone into a spying device by switching on its camera or microphone.
- Human-rights activists, lawyers, and journalists were targeted across the globe. This included several lawyers and journalists in India.
- Apple’s iOS security update 9.3.5 take care of the vulnerability exploited by Pegasus.
- Google identified infected Android phones and disable the malware and informs the targets.