India IT minister denies illegal use of NSO Pegasus spyware

Dances around the issue of whether it used NSO spyware at all as local politicians and media named as targets


Indian IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has denied the nation illegally used the NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, but hasn't denied that India used it.

The existence of Pegasus is not news. But over the weekend, Amnesty International, French outfit Forbidden Stories and a dozen publications around the world alleged the software has been widely misused to target media, dissidents, and other individuals, and that NSO Group's assertions its products are only used in the cause of national security are insincere at best.

Indian outlet The Wire was one of the outlets given access to a list of names allegedly targeted by Pegasus and found local journalists and politicians among those targeted.

Vaishnaw yesterday made a speech in India’s Lok Sabha to address the Pegasus allegations, and started by repeating NSO Group's assertion that the list on which Amnesty and others rely does not indicate an individual's smartphone was infected by Pegasus spyware.

The Minister also repeated NSO's assertion that most of its clients are in western nations, and that many countries listed in the leak aren't users.

But the bulk of Vaishnaw's speech concerned Indian laws that prevent surveillance without approval, require formal requests for approval, and implement robust approval processes that the Minister said are in place and well-used by national and state governments.

"The procedure therefore ensures that any interception or monitoring of any information is done as per due process of law," Vaishnaw said. "The framework and institutions have withstood the test of time."

"Hon’ble Speaker Sir, when we look at this issue through the prism of logic, it clearly emerges that there is no substance behind this sensationalism," he concluded.

But the Minister did not actually deny that India is an NSO Group customer, nor that it has used Pegasus.

The Register has attempted to contact NSO Group, but the email address provided for media inquiries – for a staffer at "high stakes public strategy firm" Mercury – returned a "User address unknown" error. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022