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Saturday, November 2, 2019

India Seeks Explanation From WhatsApp on Reports of Snooping

India Seeks Explanation From WhatsApp on Reports of Snooping |


India has asked WhatsApp Inc. to explain why phones of several Indian lawyers, journalists and activists were hacked earlier this year, an official said.
Facebook Inc., parent of WhatsApp, informed about 1,400 users that a malware was sent on their devices using the video calling system, according to a company statement. Facebook sued spyware manufacturer NSO Group, earlier this week alleging that the Israeli company hacked into the mobile phones of users.
Indian news reports have listed activists and human rights lawyers, who have spoken out against government policies, among those who were hacked.
The senior Indian official, who asked not to be identified citing rules, denied reports that the Indian government may be a possible customer for the snooping software called Pegasus. The official spoke to reporters in New Delhi.
“We agree with the government of India’s strong statement about the need to safeguard the privacy of all Indian citizens,” WhatsApp said in a statement Friday. “That is why we’ve taken this strong action to hold cyber attackers accountable and why WhatsApp is so committed to the protection of all user messages through the product we provide.”
Facebook is currently fighting a case in India’s Supreme Court that that may decide whether WhatsApp, other messaging services providers, and social media companies can be forced to trace and reveal the identity of the originator of a message. Facebook has invoked users’ right to privacy as part of its defense in the top court.
India plans to introduce rules to regulate social media because it can cause “unimaginable disruption” to democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a legal document filed in the nation’s Supreme Court last month.
Priyanka Gandhi, leader of India’s biggest opposition party the Indian National Congress, criticized the government. Her party has demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into hacking of the mobile phones.
Between January 2018 and May of this year, NSO created WhatsApp accounts that it used to send malicious code to targeted devices, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the federal court of San Francisco. The bogus accounts were created using telephone numbers registered in different countries, including Cyprus, Israel, Brazil, Indonesia, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
The Indian government has found reports about the hack “disturbing” and is concerned about traceability and accountability of messages on platforms like WhatsApp, the officia said. The company should have disclosed the hack to the Indian government under prevalent IT laws.

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