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India’s opposition demands inquiry into alleged govt ‘treason’ over use of Pegasus spyware

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A key opposition figure in India has called for an investigation into the use of the Pegasus spyware software and accused PM Narendra Modi’s government of “treason” for its alleged deployment of the surveillance tech.

Speaking on Friday in the wake of a series of reports about the alleged use of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware by a number of governments worldwide, Rahul Gandhi called for officials in India to investigate how widespread the impact was against the Indian state and institutions.

Gandhi, whose name was included among a list of Indian politicians, journalists and government critics allegedly targeted, accused the Modi administration of “treason” following reports of its involvement.

Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists.

The database of phone numbers of more than 50,000 individuals allegedly targeted around the world using the software was obtained by French media outlet Forbidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International, with over a dozen partnered news organizations reporting the details since Sunday. Among the numbers on the list, more than 1,000 are from India, with 300 affected individuals identified so far.

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Modi’s government has not denied that covert surveillance occurred or that the Pegasus software was used to spy on Indian citizens, but stated that any monitoring was done in accordance with existing Indian rules.

Pegasus worked by infecting phones using spear-phishing to convince victims to click a malicious link in a text message or email. However, it is thought that further developments allowed the spyware to exploit vulnerabilities in a phone’s operating system to infiltrate the device in a ‘zero-click’ attack.

The software hails from Israeli firm NSO Group, which has “firmly” denied “false claims” made by The Guardian and other outlets about who is targeted by the tool. It said journalists are spreading “uncorroborated theories” that are “based on misleading interpretation of leaked data from accessible and overt basic information.”

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