WhatsApp spyware was used to snoop on 2 dozen Indian activists and journalists

WhatsApp has revealed that at least two dozen academics, lawyers, Dalit activists and journalists in India were the target of surveillance by threat operators using security firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

The revelations, reported by news outlet Indian Express, come as the Facebook-owned messaging service filed a lawsuit against the Israeli company for helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets 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 was quoted as saying to the publication.

We’ve reached out to WhatsApp for further details, and we’ll update the story if we hear back.

In May 2019, WhatsApp stopped a sophisticated cyberattack that exploited its video calling system to deliver Pegasus malware surreptitiously. In the lawsuit filed yesterday, the company alleges NSO Group of weaponizing the vulnerability to turn the devices into secret eavesdropping tools to surveil persons of interest.

After a six-month long investigation, the company began sending specially crafted messages to approximately 1,400 users that it believes were impacted by the campaign and provided help to defend themselves from such attacks in the future.

NSO Group, which refuted WhatsApp’s accusations, has consistently maintained its technology is offered only to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crimes.

Credit: FT
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