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In a startling revelation, WhatsApp has said that Indian journalists and activists have been under the surveillance of spyware Pegasus. This disclosure was made after the app filed a lawsuit in a US federal court on Tuesday against NSO, the bug’s Israeli maker that has allegedly been helping governments around the world hack smartphones and place their on-screen activity under watch. Pegasus can gain access to mobile devices simply through missed calls via WhatsApp to identified targets. The spyware doesn’t just intercept network communication, it also has the ability to steal data. If that’s not eerie enough, news reports say over 20 Indians were under the scanner for about a fortnight in May. That was election time.

It’s scandalous that any country’s spies should use Pegasus, if indeed it turns out they have, but perhaps nobody should be too shocked. Intelligence agencies tend to use whatever they can to achieve their goals. The real worry here would be if the target list reveals a pattern that suggests a state anxious about dissent more than threats of violence. Until then, worry we still should. If spy agencies use Pegasus today, might cyber criminals be next?

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