Amid raging controversy over the WhatsApp snooping allegations, the Narendra Modi government has said that there was no breach of security. In a late-night statement, the Union Home Ministry said that the entire episode is an attempt to malign the image of India. The statement comes even as the Centre has sought an explanation from WhatsApp about the surveillance row. The messaging platform has been asked to submit a detailed report by November 4. Meanwhile, a Reuters report on Friday said that not only Indian, citizens from other countries were also targeted in this WhatsApp hacking. The report said that officials from over 20 nations spread in five continents were targeted.
Apart from India, smartphones of government officials from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan were hacked. Though so far, there has been no clarity as to who exactly ordered the snooping, the spyware developing firm NSO said that it sells the spying programme only to the governments.
What is common between all the victims of spying is that all of them are either journalists or civil society members or activists. No criminal or person with criminal background has been targeted. Citizen Lab, an independent watchdog group that worked with WhatsApp to identify the hacking targets, said on Tuesday at least 100 of the victims were civil society figures such as journalists and dissidents, not criminals, the Reuters report said.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Thursday said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus. According to Scroll.in, at least 12 people have so far confirmed that they were the targets of the Israeli spyware.
Chhattisgarh-based activist Shalini Gera, who is the lawyer of Bhima Koregaon case accused Sudha Bharadwaj and Nihalsing Rathod, lawyer of another Bhima Koregaon case accused Surendra Gadling were among the targets of the surveillance.
Rights activists Bela Bhatia and Degree Prasad Chauhan, academic and writer on Dalit issues Anand Teltumbde, former BBC journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary Delhi-based activist Ashish Gupta, Allahabad-based Civil Liberties Activist Seema Azad, social and environmental activist Vivek Sundara, Delhi University assistant professor Saroj Giri, WION journalist Sidhant Sibal and columnist Rajeev Sharma were the other victims of the Pegasus snooping.