Following the global outcry that Pegasus Spyware is being used by various Governments including the Government of India for silencing their critics, Israeli defence ministry officials on Wednesday, July 28 inspected the offices of its manufacturer NSO Group in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. News outlets have reported that the Pegasus spyware was used to target journalists, political leaders, human rights activists and government officials in several countries, The Guardian reported. The NSO Group has reacted by saying “we welcome the visit.” NSO says it was informed in advance that authorities responsible for overseeing commercial exports of cyber-surveillance technologies would be doing an inspection. “The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities,” NSO said. The Israeli defence ministry confirmed that their visit was to assess allegations about Pegasus that were published in articles this month by 17 media organisations. From a leaked list of more than 50,000 phone numbers obtained by the Paris-based journalism non-profit Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International, journalists were able to identify more than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance. This became the basis of a global investigation called the Pegasus Project.
Meanwhile, in India, the functioning of the two Houses of Parliament was disrupted since the commencement of the Monsoon Season on July 19 following the government refusing the Opposition parties’ plea to allow a JPC probe or a probe by the Supreme Court of India monitored agency into the accusation about the use of the cyber-surveillance gadget against its critics. Over 500 activists and groups have in a letter to Chief Justice of India Mr NV Ramana called for an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of Pegasus anywhere in India. They have urged to direct the Government of India and the NSO to provide time-bound answers to several questions regarding the reported state-sponsored cyber-warfare against Indian citizens. They are anguished to know that the device has been used against some media personalities, academics, human rights defenders and suspecting officials. Among the signatories to the letter are Aruna Roy, Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander, Vrinda Groover and Jhuma Sen. French President Emmanuel Macron accused by a section of media of using the gadget against its critics, has urged his Israeli counterpart for a thorough probe. Macron, incidentally, is under attack by his critics following the multi-role Rafale aircraft deal with India. India has so far received 26 Rafale aircraft out of the 36 it has ordered from Dassault Aviation. Edited by PK Chakravarty with inputs from the Guardian.