Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, which sells Pegasus spyware worldwide in a fresh statement on Wednesday said the list of Indian phone numbers reported as potential surveillance targets for hacking by the government is “not related to the NSO group."
The company has grabbed headlines after an investigative report found a list of more 50,000 phone numbers in which more than 1,000 people in 50 countries, including journalists, politicians, government officials, chief executives and human rights activists, were found to be under surveillance by governments around the world.
NSO Group responded to the fresh row over the sale of the spyware to government clients said the list is not a list of targets or potential targets of Pegasus. “The numbers in the list are not related to NSO group," it said.
“Any claim that a name in the list is necessarily related to a Pegasus target or Pegasus potential target is erroneous and false. NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the system, nor do we have access to the data of our customers, yet they are obligated to provide us with such information under investigations." the statement further said.
The company said it will investigate for any “credible proof of misuse of its technologies and will shut down the system where necessary."
Moreover, the company said it would no longer be responding to media inquiries on this matter. “In light of the recent planned and well-orchestrated media campaign lead by Forbidden Stories and pushed by special interest groups, and due to the complete disregard of the facts, NSO is announcing it will no longer be responding to media inquiries on this matter and it will not play along with the vicious and slanderous campaign.
According to the report, several Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists, were among those whose phone numbers were listed as potential targets for hacking through the Israeli spyware.
The Indian government has, however, denied the accusations. Union IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had dismissed the reports as “baseless" and said that the allegations levelled just ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament were aimed at maligning Indian democracy.
A 32-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor will likely discuss the issue during a meet on July 28. The agenda of the meeting is ‘Citizens’ data security and privacy’, according to the notification issued by Lok Sabha Secretariat.
The panel, which has maximum members from the ruling BJP, has summoned officials from the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The issue has emerged as a major issue in the proceedings in Parliament as opposition parties launched a scathing attack on the government. Describing the entire snooping incident as a matter of “national security concern", Tharoor had demanded an explanation from the government.