Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp on Thursday said that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among several users globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus. Pegasus is a malfunctioning software created by an Israeli surveillance firm called NSO. The company has denied the accusations and said that it sold the Pegasus only to the "vetted and legitimate government agencies".
The Narendra Modi government, however, denied buying the malware and asked WhatsApp to explain the breach and measures it is taking to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens. Meanwhile, WhatsApp has listed two precautionary measures to prevent the Pegasus spyware attack. In a message sent to the victims of the snooping, WhatsApp said that one can stay secure by using the latest version of the app.
"How to stay secure: Always use the latest version of WhatsApp and keep your mobile operating system updated to receive the latest security protections," the message sent to likely targets read.
According to Scroll.in, at least 12 people have so far confirmed that they were the targets of the Israeli spyware. Chhattisgarh-based activist Shalini Gera, who is the lawyer of Bhima Koregaon case accused Sudha Bharadwaj and Nihalsing Rathod, lawyer of another Bhima Koregaon case accused Surendra Gadling were among the targets of the surveillance.
Rights activists Bela Bhatia and Degree Prasad Chauhan, academic and writer on Dalit issues Anand Teltumbde, former BBC journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary Delhi-based activist Ashish Gupta, Allahabad-based Civil Liberties Activist Seema Azad, social and environmental activist Vivek Sundara, Delhi University assistant professor Saroj Giri, WION journalist Sidhant Sibal and columnist Rajeev Sharma were the other victims of the Pegasus snooping.