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In a startling revelation, WhatsApp has revealed that Indian journalists and human rights activists have been under the surveillance of Israeli spyware Pegasus. This disclosure was made after the messaging platform filed a lawsuit in a US federal court on Tuesday against NSO, the bug’s maker that has allegedly been helping governments around the world hack smartphones and place their on-screen activity under watch. Pegasus can reportedly gain access to mobile devices simply by making missed calls via WhatsApp to identified targets. If that’s not eerie enough, reports say that—by WhatApp’s count—over 20 Indians were under the scanner for about a fortnight in May.

This, incidentally, is not the first time NSO has been sued. Victims of hacking had taken it to Israeli courts on earlier occasions. The spyware doesn’t just intercept network communication, it is said to have the ability to steal your data, track your location, and much more.

It’s scandalous that any country’s official spies should use Pegasus, if indeed it turns out they have, but perhaps nobody should be too shocked by the legality of it, or lack thereof. Intelligence agencies make it their business to use whatever means they can to zoom into the lives of people who arouse suspicion. And, plied with spy movies and the like, the public often sees this as heroic. The real worry here would be if the list of targets—the names remain unknown—were to reveal a pattern that suggests a state paranoid about dissent. Till then, we all need to wonder how safe our devices are. And take precautionary measures. Today, it’s spy agencies. Tomorrow, it could be cyber criminals.

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