Pegasus as a surveillance tool is known for some time. It is also known that “Intelligence” is a part of every Government’s activity not only in India but elsewhere.
Amnesty International and the news agencies like Wire.com have no credibility to be given serious attention to when they bring out any report against the Indian Government. They are part of the Cyber warfare that we have to tolerate just like the terrorist attacks we need to tolerate from time to time.
According to the latest report, Amnesty International says that the list of phone numbers were “Potential Targets” and they never claimed they were actually targeted. If some body claims that X was in the list of surveillance target and X was targeted because he was anti Government activist, it does not explain why Y was in the target list though he was a pro Government person and why Z was not in the target list though he was a rabid anti India activist.
When a Virus spreads, it spreads through various means and not all virus attacks are targeted attacks. While NSO may claim that Pegasus infection is controlled and it can be used only by authorized Government agencies, there is a possibility that hackers may have a way of stealing the infection code from one authorized entity and use it in another context.
The above screenshot shows that pegasus is a name used for other malware also. It is possible that we may confuse another clone malware that other private hackers may also be using to what our politicians are referring to. (P.S: Please donot download any software from the site referred since it may infect your computer.)
Pegasus of NSO costs a few crores of Rupees and the Company claims that it will be sold only to Government agencies after some verification. But it is possible that it can be bought by some Government which can leak it to hackers. There are many Governments including the Pakistan and China Governments who may posses this software and may use it against India.
We therefore need to take the controversy with a pinch of salt and consider it as a passing strategy to disturb the Indian Parliament so that the Government function is diverted.
Though there is a Privacy issue involved, the facts are insufficient to conclude that the Government was involved in surveillance on a wide scale as is alleged by the politicians. If there was selective surveillance of some, it has to be weighed with the security concerns and the legitimate right of the Government to gather intelligence.
In responding to the controversy, Mrs Meenakshi Lekhi, the Chair person of the JPC on PDPB2019 has stated that the controversy is a ploy to delay the passage of the Bill.
Though the Bill by itself may not prevent such incidents in the future, if the Data Protection Authority is in place, the fight which is presently going on in the Parliament would shift to the office of the DPA and the Government would be left to do its work. At least for this, let us hope that the Bill will be introduced in its final form during this week.