The Congress on Sunday claimed that party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was among those notified by WhatsApp that their phones could have been compromised by operators using Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’.
“I want to tell that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said while addressing the media in the national capital.
He also accused the BJP government of spying on several people in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. “Shocking facts in #WhatsAppSpygate – Was BJP Government spying on citizens and political leaders in the run-up to 2019 elections,” he tweeted.
“Did Government know of the illegal spyware since May 2019? Are those sitting in echelons of power guilty of criminal offences,” Surjewala asked.
Layers of BJP Govt’s conspiracy & collusion in the illegal & unconstitutional hacking of cell phones through surveillance software ‘Pegasus’ are unraveling everyday.
BJP Govt is the deployer & executor of this illegal & unconstitutional snooping & spying racket.
Our Statement: pic.twitter.com/p5qbffgayC
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 3, 2019
The Congress leader also alleged that the Israeli spyware was sold only to the government and no one else.
“A perusal of the website of the NSO Group reflects that ‘Pegasus’ spyware and all NSO products are exclusively sold to Government only. In fact, NSO Group has written to ‘Citizen Lab’ (Munk School of University of Toronto) stating clearly that, ‘Our product is licenced to government and law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of investing and preventing crime and terror. It is, thus, clear that Government of India and its agencies brought the spyware. It could neither be bought nor deployed by any private operator,” he said.
“It is a very serious matter as they (hackers) can take all the information from your mobile phone. It is an attack on privacy. We will not able to talk to someone freely,” she had said.
On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that WhatsApp had confirmed that phones of human rights activists and journalists in India had been targeted for surveillance by operators using Pegasus, a spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.
However, the messaging platform also refuted the government’s claims that it did not inform it about the privacy breach. Responding to a notice issued by the Ministry of Information Technology, WhatsApp said besides notifying the government in May about a vulnerability in its service, it sent a letter in early September that 121 Indians were compromised by the Israeli spyware Pegasus, sources familiar with the matter had told The Sunday Express.