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Is Pegasus, a scandalous rise of a surveillance state in India?

  The Pegasus controversy is a burning topic in the Indian political scenario of late. The top brass from the opposition is attacking the government outright, for basic human rights violations and unlawful monitoring.
Simultaneously, the Government is dodging the attacks for the snooping, as the Ministry of Defense claims of having no transaction with NSO, the company that built and sold Pegasus.
Pegasus, a spyware, one of the most advanced and dangerous in the line-up. It can affect devices and spies on the victim. Even more sophisticated iOS devices are not safe from these attacks. It does so, by transferring data to a master server unlawfully.
The NSO Group or the Q Cyber Technologies is a veteran of Israeli intelligence agencies. They are the leaders in cyber intelligence and hence claim that they only sell their service to ‘vetted foreign governments’ worldwide.
Amnesty International first documented the use of ‘network injections’ in its October 2019 report. Consequently, the attackers installed the spyware on the system without direct interaction with the end-user.
Pegasus can pull off such zero-click installations in various ways. One such over-the-air (OTA) technique is to send a push message covertly that makes the target device load the spyware. This happens with the Target being unaware of the installation over which he/she has no control.
The Israeli spyware has been exposed to have targeted hundreds of phones in India. According to the legal terms, the leaked data should be a matter of global inquiry.
India’s BJP government has been a “Holocaust denier”, describing it all as “fake news”. They have been blatantly lying so far that one of them has bought the Pegasus spyware from the Israeli company.

PM Modi has pushed himself into a corner, assuming that some retired security official might go public someday, on India’s use of Pegasus. They have been contradictory in acknowledging its use would not even break the Official Secrets Act though, as the government itself had confessed in parliament that some of the countries use the spyware legally too. BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad just stopped himself from saying that India also had used spyware, which otherwise seems to be an open secret.

There is a high probability that the ruling party in India may try to stabilise the use of Pegasus in the domestic scenario. However, the saving grace, is the global political and global pressure, mounting against both the NSO Group and Israel.

There is a growing universal demand for a suspension on the use of Pegasus. The democratic credentials of PM and his government are bound to come under a cloud more, if there is no proper resolution.

To reveal the truth regarding the use of Pegasus, both nationally and globally, it is only possible through a genuine investigation. In journalistic approaches, there is a limitation of the resource. It can point to a bigger offence in India as well. If the Indian Government wants to bring credibility and clarity of intent in their action, they should take up the challenge to probe further.
It is a vital matter now, else it will impact the very core of democracy and human rights. Several democratic governments around the globe are making the right moves. It remains to be seen if India will follow suit or not.
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