No unauthorised interception of WhatsApp users: Govt

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament. PTI Photo

Insisting that there was no unauthorised interception of WhatsApp users in India by any law and enforcement agencies, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said the government had issued notice to Israeli technology firm NSO Group, which created Pegasus, seeking details about malware and its impact.

Replying to a special mention by Congress MP Digvijay Singh on the use of the spyware against some Indians, the Minister said, the government was yet to receive the names of people targeted by unnamed entities using Pegasus spyware.

However the Minister did not reply when Singh specifically asked whether any Indian agencies purchased the Pegasus software and used it for snooping civil right activists and journalists.

He also said no affected persons due to snooping was filed complaint with police or with IT Ministry so far. Requesting affected persons to file a complaint, the Minister said the government will probe the matter and punish the culprits.

According to the minister, when reports about the breach came in media, CERT -IN (Computer Emergency Response Team) on September 9 sought submissions from WhatsApp, including a need to conduct an audit and inspection of WhatsApp security system and process.

"The response from WhatsApp was received on November 18, 2019 and further clarification and technical details have been sought on November 26, 2019.

"CERT-IN has also sent a notice to NSO Group on November 26, 2019 seeking details about the malware and its impact on Indian users," he said.

He also said that the government is also working to strengthen the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011. The minister said the Bill on data security will be introduced in Lok Sabha soon.

According to WhatsApp, the spyware was developed by Israel-based NSO Group and had been used to snoop on about 1,400 users globally, including 121 users from India.

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