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Pegasus case takes turn as Congress submits proof of malware infections


On Sunday, Congress gave a notice in Lok Sabha against the Minister of Electronics and IT, Ashwini Vaishnaw. The notice was regarding the Pegasus spyware issue of which a similar copy will be given to Rajya Sabha as well.

Additionally, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader in Lok Sabha wrote to Speaker Om Birla, “It appears that the Modi Government has misled the Parliament and the Supreme Court and lied to the people of India.”

The New York Times, in its recent publications had come up with a report which alleged that India had bought the Israeli made Pegasus spyware in the year 2017 under the $2 billion weapon package. The report even suggested that the Modi government bought this spyware to keep an eye on oppositions, journalists, judges as well as civil society activists.

What’s the story according to researchers?
Two researchers had come up with their study in front of the Supreme Court’s appointed committee, which showed proof of Pegasus Spyware in several devices. They showed the panel that the mobile devices of the petitioners had the said malware.

During their research, two iPhones out of seven petitioners, were noticed to have Pegasus in them. This was uncovered using a forensic tool.

In their affidavit the researchers said, “Multiple entries going back to March 2021 indicating that the Pegasus malware tried to delete entries from the process table databases.”
Regarding the Android phones, the cybersecurity researchers analysed phones of six petitioners, out of which four devices had distinct version of Pegasus, while the remaining two had variants of the original versions of Pegasus.

The researcher also said, “We have an emulator for Android on which we verified that it has all the variants of the malware. What we found is that the malware is so virulent that it could not have been used for legitimate purposes. It not only reads your chats, it can get your videos, turn on the audio or video at any time.”

A three-member panel was appointed by the Supreme Court in October 2021, to look into the allegations of the Pegasus spyware. This panel comprised Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and was held under the supervision of the retired Supreme Court judge, Justice R V Raveendran.

This committee then issued an advertisement which called people who suspected their devices to be infected by Pegasus.
The latter added that if in further investigations the device is found to be infected, the person will have to hand over their device for several tests.

Further into Chowdhury’s notice:
Chowdhury in his notice had mentioned, “The Government, on the floor of the House, always maintained that it had nothing to do with the Pegasus spyware and it never bought the spyware from the NSO Group. The Modi Government also lied to the Supreme Court when it was directly questioned about the purchase and deployment of Pegasus.”

Further stating, “In a sworn affidavit, the Government said ‘unequivocally, we deny any and all of the allegations against the Government’ on the Pegasus issue. In light of the latest revelations by The New York Times, it appears that the Modi government has misled Parliament and the Supreme Court and lied to the people of India. In view of the above, I demand that a Privilege Motion may be initiated against the Minister of Information Technology for deliberately misleading the House on the issue.”

A report revealed that the potential targets of the spyware were Congress leader Rahul Gandhi along with political strategist Prashant Kishor and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa.
The list even had names of around 40 journalists and many other prominent persons.

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