02:24 GMT02 August 2021
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    The Israeli technology firm NSO Group, which makes the Pegasus spyware that can be used to hack the phones of surveillance targets and steal data, has denied the snooping accusations. The governments of at least 10 countries, including India, reportedly employed the services of Pegasus to snoop on journalists and political opponents, among others.

    Several foreign diplomats in New Delhi have expressed concerns over new revelations that ambassadors from China, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan were listed as potential targets for snooping by a client of Israel's NSO Group, which developed Pegasus spyware.

    "It is not appropriate for us to comment. The charges have been denied by the Indian government. They are also not confirmed yet," a diplomatic source told Sputnik.

    "But, if proven, such acts are against enshrined diplomatic protocols," the source added.

    Another diplomatic source pointed out that the inviolability of “diplomatic communication” was guaranteed under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

    “Still, it is too early to comment on the claims,” they added.

    The foreign missions listed as potential surveillance targets have so far refused to officially comment on the allegations.

    French publication Le Monde reported on Monday that the diplomats featured in the list of snooping targets, and were apparently monitored at the behest of the Indian government.

    “The numbers of Imran Khan and several of his ambassadors in India appear in the list as potential targets. Dozens of other Delhi-based diplomats and ambassadors are also included, from Iran, Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Saudi Arabia,” Le Monde said in its report.

    “Not surprisingly, Pakistan is the most scrutinised country,” it also reported.

    Le Monde is one of the 17 media partners of the ‘Pegasus Project’, a joint investigation conducted by the French media non-profit Forbidden Stories and global human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

    On Monday evening, Pakistan’s federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Islamabad would raise the phone hacking issue with India once “more details are available”.

    “We are waiting for details of the hacking,” Chaudhry was quoted as saying by Karachi-based daily Dawn.

    He was commenting on allegations about one of the mobile numbers used by Prime Minister Imran Khan also being listed as a possible surveillance target of the NSO Group client. The accusations were reported by The Washington Post, another media partner of Forbidden Stories.

    According to the probe, Pegasus has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers in more than 50 countries, including India and Saudi Arabia, since 2016.

    India denies claims that it employed the Israeli firm's technology to snoop on political opponents, human rights activists and journalists.

    “The basis of this report is that there is a consortium which has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon," India’s Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Minister Ashwini Vaishnav told parliament on Monday.

    "However, the report says that the presence of a phone no. in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subjected to an attempted hack."

    "Without subjecting the phone to this technical analysis it is not possible to conceivably state whether it was hacked or successfully compromised," the Minister stated.

    Incidentally, Vaishnav’s phone number was also listed as a possible snooping target by the NSO client, as per the Forbidden Stories’ probe.

    Reacting to the snooping claims, India's federal Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the accusations are an attempt to "humiliate India" on the world stage.


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    India, Pegasus, NSO Group, Pakistan, China, Iran
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