Pegasus used to target Indian journalist who reported on Adani scam?
A Reuters report claims that government-backed hackers tried to plant the Israel-developed spyware on this journalist's mobile phone
Indian journalist Anand Mangnale, who is affiliated with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and had reported on the Adani scam, has fallen victim to hacking by the notorious Pegasus spyware, created by the Israel-based NSO Group, reports Reuters.
According to the report, forensic analysis of Mangnale's iPhone revealed a hacking attempt in August, triggering a wave of concerns over national security and calls for stricter IT regulations.
The Pegasus spyware, exclusively sold to government entities and designed to combat terrorism and crime, has raised alarms due to ethical concerns around its usage, compromising data security and privacy of individuals.
This comes after Apple issued security alerts a week ago to several individuals in India, including several politicians from Opposition parties. All of them received alerts on their Apple devices, warning that they may be targets of state-sponsored hacking attempts to remotely access their iPhones.
Despite the alerts, no specific government entity or spyware use was identified by Apple, leading to a dismissal of the allegations by the Indian government. An inquiry was, however, initiated into the matter.
Quoting Drew Sullivan, co-founder of OCCRP, Reuters said that the forensic examination of Mangnale's phone unveiled a pattern of suspicious crashes consistent with previously documented Pegasus intrusions.
Neither the journalist, nor the Union IT ministry have responded to the report, said Reuters.
Pegasus operates by granting the surveillance agency extensive access to a targeted smartphone, enabling the recording of calls and interception of messages, effectively turning the phones into portable listening devices for the surveillance agency.
The gravity of the situation is emphasised by Sullivan, who remarked, "Whatever government is spying on the reporters, there's no plausible explanation for that other than political gain."
iVerify, the company conducting the forensic analysis on Anand Mangnale's phone, expressed 'high confidence' that the hacking attempt was executed using Pegasus.
The report underscores the growing challenges associated with surveillance technologies and raises concerns about their potential misuse for political purposes.
It is worth recalling here that in July 2021, an investigation by a group of 17 media organisations and Amnesty International showed that Pegasus spyware was used for unauthorised surveillance of journalists, activists and politicians across the world, including in India.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, industrialist Anil Ambani and former Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma were among the alleged targets.