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Pegasus Spyware

Why is it in the news?

  • The Washington Post and Amnesty International report revealed the targeting of journalists in India by Pegasus spyware.
  • The spyware utilized a ‘zero-click exploit,’ enabling installation without the device owner’s consent or action.

About Pegasus Spyware

  • Developed, marketed, and licensed by the Israeli company NSO Group.
  • Marketed as a tool for targeted spying, not mass surveillance.
  • Capable of infecting billions of phones running iOS or Android.
  • Operates in countries with human rights abuses, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Madagascar, and Oman.

Indian Scenario

  • Despite no public acknowledgment, Pegasus found on phones of journalists, academics, and opposition leaders, leading to a political crisis.
  • Capable of turning phones into surveillance devices, intercepting encrypted messages from platforms like WhatsApp and Signal.
  • Recently, the activists filed petitions alleging government mass surveillance through Pegasus. Further, the Supreme Court asked the Centre for a detailed affidavit, but the Centre refused, citing national security concerns.

Relevant Indian Laws

  • Indian Telegraph Act, 1885: Section 5(2) allows interception in the interests of sovereignty, integrity, security, friendly relations, or public order.
  • Rule 419A (added in 2007) outlines operational procedures for interception, following the PUCL vs Union of India case.
  • S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017): Stressed the need for oversight, legality, proportionality, and procedures in surveillance.
  • Information Technology Act, 2000: Section 69 allows electronic surveillance in the interest of sovereignty, integrity, defence, security, friendly relations, public order, or crime prevention.

Suggested Measures

  • Emphasize the need for transparency and openness in government actions.
  • Advocates reforms for professionalizing intelligence gathering, parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies, non-partisanship, and protection of civil liberties and the rule of law.

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