Pakistan on Saturday said that it would conduct an investigation over the use of Pegasus malware, which is capable of switching a phone’s camera or microphone on and harvesting its data, against Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior officials of Pakistan’s military and government and would take legal action against India as well as raise “deep concern” at international fora.
A report in The Washington Post stated that India was one of the ten countries which have been listed as client of Israel’s NSO Group and its spyware.
At least one number once used by PM Imran was among the tens of thousands of smartphone numbers, including those of activists, journalists, business executives and politicians from around the world, that were revealed to have been targeted by the Israeli spyware.
The American publication stated that hundreds of numbers from Pakistan appeared on the Indian surveillance list, including one which was once used by the premier. More than 1,000 Indian numbers were also on the list. The report did not confirm if the attempt on the premier’s number was successful or not.
Israel’s Haaretz reported that several Pakistani officials, Kashmiri freedom fighters, Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and an Indian supreme court judge were targeted.
According to a Pakistani private TV channel, India even tried to tap the federal cabinet members’ calls and messages through the spyware, prompting the Pakistani government to develop new software for the federal ministers.
Last Sunday’s revelations – part of a collaborative investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other media outlets – raise privacy concerns and reveal the far-reaching extent to which the private firm’s software could be misused.
Addressing today’s press conference in Islamabad, Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar, who was flanked by Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry, said that the scandal was even bigger than the Panama Papers leaks.
“We consider it [the cyber-attack] an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and the country will safeguard it at all cost,” Akbar added.
He said that the government is devising a legal strategy against India and the issue will be raised on international fora such as United Nations and European Union.
The PM’s aide said that a team comprising officials from intelligence agencies, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and senior officials of cabinet division would investigate the matter.
LIVE #APPNews Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ch Fawad Hussain along with Adviser to PM on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar addressing press conference #Islamabad @ShazadAkbar @fawadchaudhry https://t.co/og1bOh56Bc— APP 🇵🇰 (@appcsocialmedia) July 24, 2021
Akbar said India’s nefarious designs towards Pakistani have been exposed following the scandal. “India wants to destabilise Pakistan. Earlier, we also saw the report of Disinfo Lab which stated how India used fake media houses and NGOs to lobby against Pakistan,” he added.
He said that the Israeli firm NSO has been selling software to different countries for many years. However, it requires approval from the Israeli government.
“10 countries were given the spyware including India. It was used against political opponents of Modi including journalist, politicians and judges,” he added.
Describing how the malware works, he said that it calls the victim and when it is received, it freezes the phone and extracts the data, adding that it also has the capability to use a phone’s camera and microphone.
He further said that Pakistan considers the act as an attack on its sovereignty and it will be thoroughly investigated and shared on international fora such as United Nations and European Union.
More to follow…