Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were selected as potential targets of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware program by clients of the NSO Group cyberespionage firm, according to an investigation by 17 media organizations published on Sunday.
The Guardian, one of the media outlets, said the investigation suggested “widespread and continuing abuse” of NSO’s hacking software, described as malware that infects smartphones to enable the extraction of messages, photos and emails; record calls; and secretly activate microphones.
The leaked data had numbers once known to have been used by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Kashmiri leaders, Pakistani diplomats, Chinese journalists, Sikh activists and businesspeople known to be the subject of police investigations.
The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s most prominent political rival, the opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, was twice selected as a potential surveillance target in leaked phone number data, making him one of dozens of Indian politicians, journalists, activists and government critics whose numbers were identified as possible targets for the Israeli company’s government clients.
The company issued a statement on its website denying the reporting by the 17 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.
“The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality,” the company said in the statement.
“After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report,” the statement said.
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