Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today hit out at the government over a global hacking spree involving WhatsApp and after the messaging platform said several Indian users had been targeted by Israeli spyware. Ms Vadra sought the government's response.
"If the BJP or the government has engaged Israeli agencies to snoop into the phones of journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians, it is a gross violation of human rights and a scandal with grave ramifications on national security. Waiting for the government's response," Ms Vadra tweeted.
On Thursday, the government asked WhatsApp for an explanation after it confirmed it had informed several Indian users this week that they had been targeted by Israeli spyware Pegasus earlier this year. Those hit by the spyware included journalists, activists, lawyers and senior government officials.
If the BJP or the government has engaged Israeli agencies to snoop into the phones of journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians, it is a gross violation of human rights and a scandal with grave ramifications on national security. Waiting for the government's response.— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) November 1, 2019
The users were informed just before WhatsApp's parent company Facebook sued Israeli cybersecurity company NSO on Tuesday, alleging that it used WhatsApp servers to spread malware to 1,400 users across 20 countries. Pegasus, a spyware developed by NSO, was used to break into the phones during a two-week period in April.
"Government of India is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on the messaging platform WhatsApp. We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens," tweeted Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday.
Among those targeted are senior government officials in multiple US-allied countries, according to people familiar with the messaging company's investigation, news agency Reuters reported.
Sources familiar with WhatsApp's internal investigation into the breach said a "significant" portion of the known victims are high-profile government and military officials spread across at least 20 countries on five continents. Apart from India, those targeted incluse WhatsApp users in the US, UAE, Bahrain, Mexico and Pakistan.
The Congress has demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into what it called "blatant illegal hacking" of phones.