Denying reports that his phone was hacked via WhatsApp, former union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel on Sunday said he had never received a message from the Facebook-owned platform telling him about the spyware.
“These are baseless allegations... I have never received any message from WhatsApp telling me that my phone has been hacked,” Patel told News18.
A report in the Hindustan Times had quoted an unnamed WhatsApp official as saying that Patel was among 41 users in India whose phones were targeted in a spyware attack through the chat app.
Patel told HT that he could not recall being alerted, the WhatsApp official had said that it was likely that many of those targeted did not pay attention to the message.
The messages alerting the users had been sent out by Citizen Lab, a Canada-based cybersecurity group that is assisting WhatsApp in investigating the spyware attack.
Patel’s response came after the Congress alleged that senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi’s WhatsApp was also hacked.
"I want to tell that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, responding to a question about Praful Patel and Mamata Banerjee receiving messages from the Facebook-owned messaging platform.
So far, 17 individuals, mostly lawyers, human rights activists, and journalists, have confirmed that they were targeted by spyware through WhatsApp in India. Pegasus was used to target around 1,400 users globally during a two-week period in May.
The government has sought an explanation from WhatsApp on the alleged surveillance of phones by November 4, but the messaging platform said that it had informed the Indian authorities about the privacy breach in May itself.