Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Rubbishes Report On Pegasus Project

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New Delhi: The IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw today rubbished the reports that phone numbers of Indian ministers, opposition leaders, and journalists were found on a database of targets for hacking that used Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’.

Replying to the allegations amid Opposition uproar in Lok Sabha on Monday, Union Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that there is no substance to suggest that spyware was used for surveillance.

Further, questioning the timing of the report, the Union Minister said it is not a coincidence that the “sensational” report was published on the eve of the Monsoon Session.

“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” the minister said and added that the Israeli company NSO has also rubbished the snooping claim.

“In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including in the Supreme Court. The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well established institutions,” said Vaishnaw. He also urged the Members of the House to examine the issues on facts and logic.

Submitting his statement before the House, Vaishnaw said that the publisher of the report itself states that it cannot say if the numbers in the published list were under surveillance. Besides, the company, whose technology was allegedly used, has denied these claims out rightly and the time tested processes in our country are well-established to ensure that unauthorised surveillance does not occur.

“When we look at this issue through the prism of logic, it clearly emerges that there is no substance behind this sensationalism,” Vaishnaw added.

As per the report, there is a consortium which has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon. However, the report says that: ‘The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. Without subjecting a phone to this technical analysis, it is not possible to conclusively state whether it witnessed an attack attempt or was successfully compromised.’

On Sunday, an international media consortium reported that more than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of business persons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’ sold only to government agencies. However, the government, had dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying it “has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever”.

Following protests by the Opposition parties, both the Houses of the Parliament were adjourned on Monday. The uproar took place while PM Modi was introducing the new ministers. While marking the beginning of the Monsoon Session earlier today, PM Modi said he hoped that all issues will be discussed in a healthy manner in the Parliament.

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