New Delhi: WhatsApp has informed the government that Pegasus, a software designed by Israeli surveillance firm NSO, targeted 121 users in India out of whom, mobile phones of 20 were successfully breached. The said information was conveyed to the government, on its request for technical information, by WhatsApp on November 18.
Additionally, the Facebook-owned messaging platform also informed the government it would not be able to tell conclusively what data, if any, was accessed from the phones of the targeted users.
This latest development in the ongoing snooping row comes just days after a Parliamentary panel, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, held discussions on the issue.
WhatsApp is also learnt to have informed the government that the attacks were of ‘high complexity’ and ‘quite sophisticated’, and due to its limited visibility into certain aspects of the attack, its probe into the issue was still going on. Earlier, it had indicated to the government that 121 users were targeted in India, but confirmed the same only in the latest communication.
However, earlier, in a communication in May, WhatsApp had indicated to the government that it did not see Pegasus as a major security threat.
The WhatsApp snooping row came to light late October when the company confirmed that 1,400 people, across four continents, were targeted by the Israeli firm. Most of those targeted, including those from India, were journalists, activists, and, in general, dissenters in various countries. WhatsApp has said that it offered support to those targeted in coordination with Canada-based Citizen Lab, which contacted those who had received a ‘special WhatsApp message.’
The opposition in India has accused the government of spying on several senior opposition politicians, an allegation vehemently denied by the Centre.
The hacking attacks are said to have taken place between April 29 and May 10.