Pegasus victims ask govt to come clean

They said they all have received messages from WhatsApp informing them that their mobile devices were targetted by a highly sophisticated cyber attack.  

Nineteen activists, academics, journalists and lawyers, who were targeted by 'Pegasus', have asked the government to come clean on whether any of its ministries or agencies were engaged with NSO Group to use the Israeli spyware.

In an open letter, the affected people demanded that the government should provide all details, including the cost and agencies, in public domain if it has engaged the group. If the government has not engaged them, they said, it should then inform people about the steps being taken to identify the culprits behind these cyber-attacks and to secure telecommunication channels to prevent such an attack in the future. 

Those signed the open letter included activists Bela Bhatia, Degree Prasad Chouhan, Seema Azad and Shalini Gera besides Shubhranshu Choudhary, a former BBC journalist.

"We seek an answer from the Government of India about whether it was aware of any contract between any of its various ministries, departments, agencies, or any State Government, and the NSO group or any of its contractors to deploy Pegasus or related malware for any operations within India?" they said.

They said they all have received messages from WhatsApp informing them that their mobile devices were targetted by a highly sophisticated cyber attack.  

"We are all journalists, lawyers, academics, writers, social and cultural activists, students and other professionals, drawn from different parts of India. We have been engaged in various spheres of Indian civil society. The knowledge that we have all been under surveillance by an unknown entity and that our intimate details, personal conversations, financial transactions etc. were being spied upon is deeply disturbing," they said.

This violates fundamental right of privacy and compromises not only security, but also of those in our extended network of family, friends, colleagues, clients and sources. Indeed, such widespread surveillance produces a "chilling effect" on the entire society and goes against every grain of our democratic tradition of a free exchange of ideas and expressions, they said.

"As affected persons and concerned citizens, we appeal to the Government to reveal whatever information it has about this cyber attack, other similar methods of mass surveillance and the identity of the concerned players. It is a matter of public concern whether Indian tax payer money has been spent on this kind of cyber surveillance requiring the expenditure of crores of rupees and a vast infrastructure of information technology," they added.

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