While the list of cell phone numbers marked for likely surveillance is extensive, the inclusion of Ambani is gaining momentum in the context of the 2018 Rafale deal and the controversy that followed.
Telephone numbers used by industrialist Anil Ambani and officials from aerospace and defense manufacturers such as Dassault Aviation India, Saab India and Boeing India have been flagged as likely targets for surveillance by an Indian customer of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, a Report from The cable said.
Why is it important? These reports by an international consortium of media organizations, which have revealed the identities of victims affected by Pegasus and those who have been potential targets for the spyware, have had a significant impact on the state of surveillance and privacy in the country. While previous reports of the inclusion of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka politicians suggested that these potential deployments might have a political motive, new reports suggested that even arms manufacturers’ officials might have been monitored.
Anil Ambani: The Wire report said Ambani’s name was added to the leaked numbers database in 2018, around the time the Narendra Modi-led Indian government decided to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft and allegedly proposed to make Ambani the industry partner for this deal. A PIL has been taken on the matter at the Supreme Court following a controversy over the deal in France and India, the Wire report said.
The mere presence of a number on this list doesn’t mean the smartphone connected to it has been successfully spied – a conclusion that can only be ascertained through digital forensics of the device’s data – but the consortium has reason to believe it was a person acts of interest to an unknown customer of the NSO Group – The Wire
Tony Jesudasan: Reliance ADA Group’s head of corporate communications, Tony Jesudasan, and his wife’s numbers were also on the list for 2018. The Wire report said Jesudasan was seen as a problem solver for Ambani’s company on regulatory and media management issues.
Venkat Rao Posina: Dassault Aviation’s Indian representative, Venkata Rao Posina, developed a “reputation for defending the Rafale deal so vigorously that he apparently got into verbal arguments with journalists on Twitter.” His number was also added to the leaked database between 2018 and 2019.
Harmanjit Nagi: Nagi, head of French energy company EDF, was “an important choice” as he was part of Emmanuel Macron’s official delegation during the French President’s visit to India in 2018-2019.
Saab India boss Inderjit Sial: Sial was added to the list shortly after Rafale was awarded the MMRCA contract in 2013. He told The Wire that “one of the reasons a government agency may have been interested in placing him under surveillance was that he was in the running for the top job at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited during the period his number was in the running leaked database.
Defense and intelligence personnel also on the list
The phone numbers of two former top border security officers, a retired senior official from the Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and an Indian army officer who spoke out against the government on service-related matters were also recorded as. marks likely targets for surveillance by an Indian customer of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, a report said by The Wire.
- Former BSF boss KK Sharma: His number was added to a list of phone numbers marked as likely targets for surveillance in 2018. The Wire correlated the timing of his cellphone number listing with a meeting organized by an RSS member group that the official attended in Kolkata Uniform.
- Jagdish Maithani, BSF Police Inspector General: Maithani “appears to have been of significant interest to an Indian customer of NSO between 2017 and 2019” when he was in command, the Wire report reads.
- Jitendra Kumar Ojha, retired RAW senior officer: Ojha’s cell phone number was added to the list of likely targets that the Central Administrative Court misplaced in February 2018.
- Colonel Mukul Dev of the Indian Army: Colonel Mukul Dev’s cell phone number, who sent a legal notice on service matters to the Minister of Defense in 2017, was also selected as a possible surveillance target in 2019.
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