Israeli firm denies report of surveillance on Indians

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On Sunday evening (July 18), phone numbers of top Indian ministers, current cabinet ministers and journalists were found on a database that was a target for hacking by an Israeli spyware firm ‘Pegasus’, the access to which is only available and limited to the government. 

The NSO Group, an Israeli company that sells Pegasus spyware worldwide, on Sunday (July 18, 2021) denied all media allegations and reports that they have put on surveillance, phones of current Indian cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, businessmen and journalists among others. 

While speaking to Zee Media, an NSO spokesperson said, “The report is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality.”

He further added, “After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report. Their sources have supplied them with information which has no factual basis, as evident by the lack of supporting documentation for many of their claims.” The spokesperson also stated that the accusations were so bizarre and outrageous that they are considering a defamation lawsuit. 

According to the media reports, there has been a massive data leak that consists of a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that included union officials and government officials, including cabinet ministers, presidents and prime ministers, business executives, religious figures, academics and NGO employees.

However, the NSO completely denies any data being leaked from their servers and called it ridiculous. The company said in a released statement, “NSO Group has a good reason to believe the claims that are made by the unnamed sources are based on a misleading interpretation of data from accessible and overt basic information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no bearing on the list of the customers’ targets of Pegasus or any other NSO products. Such services are openly available to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, and are commonly used by governmental agencies for numerous purposes, as well as by private companies worldwide.”

As per the media reports, more than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including two serving ministers, three opposition leaders, over 40 journalists and one sitting judge besides scores of business persons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that there has been no unauthorised interception by government agencies. “Government of India’s response to a Right to Information application about the use of Pegasus has been prominently reported by media and is in itself sufficient to counter any malicious claims about the alleged association between the Government of India and Pegasus,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said.

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