Pegasus is a spyware program developed by the Israeli business NSO Group that may gather data from mobile phones. Stating simply, It is a type of malware that infects iPhones and Android smartphones, allowing its users to extract texts, images, and emails, as well as record calls and covertly activate microphones.
Pegasus was found to be spying on roughly 50,000 phone numbers throughout the world, according to a worldwide investigation. Out of which 300 of them being confirmed Indian numbers. According to an investigation into a large data breach, authoritarian regimes have targeted human rights activists, journalists, and attorneys all around the world using hacking tools provided by the Israeli spy business NSO Group. In India, the phone numbers include of the legal community, businesspeople, government officials, scientists and acitivists. According to THE WIRE, Over 40 journalists, three major opposition figures, one constitutional authority, two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organizations, and scores of businesspeople are among those in the database and their names would be soon released in the upcoming days. Newspapers like, The Guardian and The Washington Post, among others, released important facts showing the extent of what they dubbed “global surveillance operations” using Pegasus. The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted on Sunday that this “spill” might be “the tale of the year.”
So basically, all we have to know is how Pegasus operates and how does it actually work. So after it is installed, it may collect data from emails, text messages such as SMS, WhatsApp conversations, phone records, contact lists, and GPS data and send it to the attacker. It can also activate a microphone, call recorder, and camera to give the attacker with surveillance capabilities. Forensic examinations on certain phones linked to the target numbers found unmistakable indications of Pegasus malware targeting and this task made simpler by the fact that the device was an Apple iPhone.
However, The Israeli firm that distributes Pegasus, NSO Group, disputed the claims, claiming that it only sells its spyware to “vetted countries.” Representatives claimed the business was “considering a defamation action” after allegations that it sold malware to intelligence, military, and law-enforcement organizations in 40 nations. On the other hand, the government of India also denied any involvement in the hacking, claiming that “the claims about government monitoring on individual people have no solid basis or truth linked with it whatsoever.” They also released a statement which states that in the past, similar accusations were made regarding the Indian State’s use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. In the Supreme Court, all parties, including WhatsApp, explicitly rejected the reports. They also said that this press release looks to be a similar fishing expedition, based on speculation and exaggeration in order to discredit India’s democracy and institutions.
Nevertheless, Pegasus was reportedly used to target journalists and human rights activists in India by Facebook-owned WhatsApp in 2019, according to a few sources. This information was revealed in a lawsuit filed in a US court in San Francisco by WhatsApp.