31-10-201931-10-2019 20:44:09 IST
Updated On 31-10-2019 21:02:56 ISTUpdated On 31-10-20192019-10-31T15:14:09.255Z31-10-2019 2019-10-31T15:14:06.095Z - 2019-10-31T15:32:56.735Z - 31-10-2019
IT ministry has demanded an explanation from WhatsApp after the social messaging company held by Facebook confirmed that the app was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India. WhatsApp had earlier confirmed that the app was used for spying purpose by 'operators' using Israeli spyware called Pegasus.
"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 IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday.
WhatsApp though has refused to reveal the identity of the operators and numbers and other details of the individuals who were spied upon. Roughly 1400 users were targetted and spied upon by the Israeli firm NSO and WhatsApp was planning to sue the surveillance firm now. These users span across four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
"Indian journalists and human rights activists have been the target of surveillance and while I cannot reveal their identities and the exact number, I can say that it is not an insignificant number," a WhatsApp spokesperson told The Indian Express.
The spyware requires the target to click on a link and once that is done, the operator can penetrate into the phone and install Pegasus without the user's knowledge. Using this spyware, the operator can gain access to the details such as bank passwords, contact lists, events and location of the unsuspecting user anytime.
Some of the users whor were affected by the spyware were leading academicians, lawyers and Dalit activists. WhatsApp had contacted them earlier this year and informed them that they are under "state-of-the-art surveillance for a two-week period until May 2019." WhatsApp in May had launched a probe into the issue to understand the security lapse on its end.
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