O'Brien draws parallel with Tek Fog and Pegasus

Derek O'Brien draws parallel with Tek Fog and Pegasus, insists on Parliamentary panel probe

O'Brien that the Tek Fog app gives cyber troops the ability to hijack WhatsApp accounts of private citizens

Derek O'Brien. Credit: IANS photo

Drawing a parallel with an app said to be used by the BJP IT Cell and Pegasus, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’Brien on Monday shot off a second letter to Parliamentary Standing Committee Home Chairperson Anand Sharma insisting on discussing 'Tek Fog', claiming that the use of "such manipulative technology is a danger" to national security while drawing parallel to the Pegasus controversy.

His letter, the first on January 6, came as news portal ‘The Wire’ reported that the BJP IT Cell was purportedly using the controversial app and allegedly hijacking trending topics on social media platforms like Twitter and taking control of inactive WhatsApp accounts and sending messages to frequently contacted numbers of the account among other things.

"Use of such manipulative technology is a danger to national security and democratic rights of free speech and unfettered media, and a threat to individual citizens’ privacy and safety," O'Brien said in his latest letter.

His letter came as news portal ‘The Wire’ reported that the BJP IT Cell was purportedly using the controversial app and allegedly hijacking trending topics on social media platforms like Twitter and taking control of inactive WhatsApp accounts and sending messages to frequently contacted numbers of the account among other things.

Read | SC Pegasus panel asks suspected victims to write in

O'Brien said in his second letter that more information about the illegal use of Tek Fog has come out and it showed that the app gives cyber troops the ability to hijack WhatsApp accounts of private citizens by sending them spyware disguised as a media file.

"It then remotely accesses inactive accounts in their contact lists and uses the inactive number to send targeted messages to all their contacts. All of the hijacked number’s contacts are synced to a database on cloud, ripe for picking as future targets of disinformation and harassment...this hacking technique was formerly used by the Pegasus spyware, before the NSO Group developed an even more sophisticated zero-click hijacking method," he said in the letter.

The Opposition were up in arms against the Narendra Modi government after it came to light that Opposition leaders, Constitutional post holders, activists, journalists and business honchos were suspected to be spied using the Israeli company's spyware.

Referring to the investigation by the portal, O'Brien also said that the app allowed modification of existing news articles and links to them and creating fake news articles styled like true ones. "Similar sophisticated technologies have been created by companies like Open AI and Salesforce, which have expertise in Artificial Intelligence, permitting the actual creation of junk news to be done by AI models and the dissemination by networks of WhatsApp groups," he said.

In his first letter, he said, "the existence and usage of manipulative technologies like Tek Fog is a severe danger to national and citizens’ security, a violation of our Fundamental Rights to Privacy and Free Speech, an exploitation of public discourse, and a defilement of the country's democracy and security."

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