NEW DELHI: Pakistani, Chinese and diplomats from other countries in Indian capital appeared on the list of potential targets for phone hacking via the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware, reported The Hindu. The publication citing the French paper Le Monde said that several New Delhi-based diplomats were also on the list of potential targets for phone hacking from 2017-2021, along with a phone associated with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The numbers of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and several of his ambassadors in India appear on the list as potential targets. Dozens of other Delhi-based diplomats and ambassadors are also included, from Iran, Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Saudi Arabia,” the report published on Monday in Le Monde said.
The Hindu reported that the French publication had said that the number of Pakistan’s envoy to India was on the list too. The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by NSO Group, was reported on by The Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets Sunday who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.
The leak was of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of the NSO since 2016, the reports said.
Not all of those numbers were subsequently hacked, and the news outlets with access to the leak said more details about those who were compromised would be released in the coming days.
The revelation comes a day after it was reported that India targeted a phone which was earlier in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s use through the Israeli firm’s malware, a global investigation had revealed, igniting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses.
As reported by an independent Israeli publication Haaretz, several Pakistani officials, Kashmiri freedom fighters, Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and even an Indian supreme court judge were targeted, the publication had said.
Sources had informed Geo News that India tried to tap the Federal Cabinet members’ calls and messages through the spyware, prompting Pakistan to develop new software for its federal ministers.
Following the development, a high-level meeting of the civil and military leadership was called which will decide a future course of action against India’s spying attempt.
Meanwhile, Gandhi in response to the development said: “Targeted surveillance of the type you describe, whether in regard to me, other leaders of the opposition, or indeed any law-abiding citizen of India, is illegal and deplorable.”
“If your information is correct, the scale and nature of surveillance you describe go beyond an attack on the privacy of individuals. It is an attack on the democratic foundations of our country. It must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible be identified and punished.”
The Congress leader changes his cellphone after every few months in a bid to avoid being hacked. Per the publication, New Delhi did not confirm nor deny whether it was a client of the Israeli firm NSO or not, however, its laws do not bind the government to disclose the use of said technology. India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, responding to questions from The Washington Post, said the claim that specific people were targeted “had no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever.”
“Any interception, monitoring, or decryption of any information through any computer resource is done as per the due process of law,” it added.