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Priyanka Gandhi was warned by WhatsApp, says Congress

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

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Party spokesperson accuses government of using Israeli software to snoop on citizens.

The Congress on Sunday claimed that party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had received a text message from WhatsApp alerting her to a possible privacy breach about a month ago, as did others whose phones were similarly hacked with the Pegasus spyware from the Israel-based technology and cyber intelligence firm, NSO Group.

“When WhatsApp sent out messages to all hacked phones, one such message was sent to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s mobile phone too. WhatsApp did not say that the phone was hacked in an illegal fashion by Pegasus software. Nature of the message is already in the public domain and she received the message,” Congress communication in-charge Randeep Surjewala said at a press conference here.

The Congress did not clarify as to why Ms. Vadra didn't disclose the breach before or if the party will be taking a legal action.

Also read: Alerted Indian government of spyware attack in September, says WhatsApp

Ahead of LS election

In serious allegations against the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, Mr. Surjewala said citizens, journalists and Opposition leaders were spied upon in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.

‘Pegasus’ spyware is only sold to government and to no one else the Congress said.

Watch | Explained: Pegasus, the spyware that came in via WhatsApp

“A perusal of the website of the NSO Group reflects that ‘Pegasus’ spyware and all NSO products are exclusively sold to governments only. In fact, NSO Group has written to ‘Citizen Lab’ (of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto) stating clearly that, “Our product is licensed to government and law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of investigating and preventing crime and terror,” Mr. Surjewala said.

Countering the government’s claim that WhatsApp kept it in the dark about the Pegasus attack, Mr. Surjewala said Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, had reported the breach in April this year.

“In fact, it was duly noted and a vulnerability report issued by ‘Indian Computer Emergency Response Team’ — CERT-in — of the Ministry of IT. Not only this, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met WhatsApp CEO, Mr. Chris Daniels on August 20 this year. He again met Facebook vice-president, Mr. Nick Clegg on September 12. Yet Mr. Prasad as also the Modi government chose to keep mum,” Mr. Surjewala said.

Quoting from the Citizen Lab Report, the Congress said telephone and internet providers for the government including the MTNL, National Internet Backbone and National Informatics Centre were infected.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to answer whether the BJP government was spying on its citizens and political leaders in the run-up to the 2019 General Election? Who in the Government of India purchased and deployed the illegal spyware ‘Pegasus’ from Israeli company NSO?” Mr. Surjewala asked.

The chain of events, Mr. Surjewala said, proves criminal culpability of the Modi government in this spying episode.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 10:47:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/whatsapp-alerted-priyanka-gandhi-vadra-on-possible-phone-attack-says-congress/article29870688.ece

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