WhatsApp says the government warned of the spyware attack in September as well; IT Min says past information was inadequate

New Delhi, November 3 () WhatsApp had informed the Indian government in September that 121 Indian users were attacked by Israeli spyware Pegasus, but the IT ministry said the information received from the messaging application was previously inadequate and incomplete, according to the sources.

WhatsApp sources said the messaging platform has now responded to the government’s consultation last week for an explanation of the Pegasus spyware incident that allegedly snooped at journalists and human rights activists around the world, including the India.

IT ministry sources said they received a response from WhatsApp and are studying it, and that an opinion will be taken soon.

While he declined to comment on the details of the new response sent last week, sources on WhatsApp said the company had also contacted the government in September, its second alert on the issue after its communication in May.

They said the company owned by Facebook had indicated in the September communication that 121 users in India had been affected by spyware.

IT ministry officials said they had received some communication from WhatsApp in the past, but said the information that came before was inadequate, not complete and full of technical jargon.

WhatsApp did not respond to inquiries about the matter.

The message giant, on Thursday, said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those who were spied globally by unidentified entities that use Israeli spyware Pegasus.

WhatsApp had said it is suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, which is reportedly behind the technology that helped unidentified entities to hack phones of approximately 1,400 users on four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

However, WhatsApp did not say who the phones of journalists and activists worldwide were targeting. WhatsApp refused to divulge the identities of the recipients of India and said that in May it had stopped a highly sophisticated cyber attack that exploded its video calling system to send malware to its users.

Spyware supposedly allows compromised devices to give access to the camera, microphone, messages, emails and even phone location data. Simply put, hackers could have access to the contents of the entire device.

WhatsApp had said that it had sent a special message to some 1,400 users worldwide that it had reason to believe that it was affected by this attack to inform them directly about what happened. In recent days, several social activists in India showed up and said they had received WhatsApp communication about it.

WhatsApp has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, of which only India represents around 400 million.

On Thursday, after WhatsApp's revelation that spyware had also targeted Indian users, the Indian government asked WhatsApp to explain the matter and list the measures the application took to protect the privacy of millions of users.

While NSO has so far claimed that it only sold its technology to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies licensed, government officials have claimed that the Indian government has no dealings with the Israeli company. Government officials also questioned the suspicious moment of the disclosure of the piracy incident, particularly in the context of the Supreme Court that allows the Center three months to develop rules to curb the misuse of social networks in the country, and the continuing demand to bring the traceability of the creators of malicious content. SR HRS

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