Kozhikode: Hours after the allegation of massive phone tapping had come out about Pegasus, a malicious software developed by Israeli company NSO group, the former chief information security officer at the prime minister’s office has termed it a ‘foreign political agenda’ to malign the image of the nation. “The bogus revelation lacks evidence and clarity as it is solely intended to ruin the reputation of a sovereign state like India,” Dr. Gulshan Rai, former Chief Information Security officer at the Prime Minister’s office, told mathrubhumi.com.
The report, came out on Sunday in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wire and other media, alleged that the phone numbers of over 300 Indians, including two serving Cabinet ministers (Smriti Irani and Nitin Gadkari), three opposition leaders, a constitutional authority, government officials, scientists and about 40 journalists, were observed or tapped. The report mentions a forensic analysis on some of the tapped phones to substantiate the allegation of data breach.
“It is so strange that the report came hours before the Parliament meeting and the central government came under the scanner over allegations of its involvement in it. The intention is crystal clear as the Amnesty International had done similar moves in the past too, but in vain,” he said.
The former cyber security chief demanded proof substantiating the role of Pegasus or government in it. “As per reports, forensic analysis confirms snooping but who did it is the million-dollar question.”
He criticised the way an allegation was made on a topic that affects national security. “I have noticed reports linking government’s role in it. How one can raise allegations like this when there are no evidences. Let them collect evidence and reveal it,” he said.
He also said that the over 2,000 reports he read about the massive tapping lack clarity. “There are many software and apps breaching public data. The sites like Darknet carries even the credit card and debit card details of public. The phone numbers might have been tapped but it doesn’t mean government has role in it. They have to answer when it was breached? How it was breached? This fake report cannot be valued. So I reject the reports in all senses,” he added.
Most of the Journalists in India, whose phone numbers were allegedly tapped by Pegasus, informed that they have identified data breach months back. However, the role of Pegasus was not known to them till this report has come out.
Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who is one among the 40 journalists in the list, said, “In March, I was contacted by someone from Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media organisation, for a forensic analysis on my phone. The study found that my phone had been compromised and now I have confirmed that it was Pegasus that breached my data”.
He also criticised the government for buying or using a spyware to snoop on its own citizens. “Pegasus would not snoop on Indian citizens on its own until and unless requested by the government. It should be probed,” he added.
An Information Technology expert from Kerala called for a scientific and serious probe. “An RTI was filed asking three questions: 1. Has the Indian government purchased Pegasus? 2. Was there any plan for purchase? 3. Did the government receive any proposal in this regard? The answer to this was ‘no data available'. Here the question is not whether Pegasus spied on the citizens of India or not but whether the government uses or used the service of Pegasus for any purpose or not. There is a case registered against Pegasus in San Francisco over date breach associated with WhatsApp. Only a thorough probe can expose facts. If probe finds any government link with Pegasus, the NDA government has no moral ground to continue in power.”
With the Parliament session on more MPs plan to question the government in the coming days. Undoubtedly, the Pegasus row will storm the Parliament sessions and the government will have to sweat a lot to answer the opposition.