The phone numbers selected came from helpers who worked for state politicians who were at the center of a political power struggle at the time.

The wires current report on the NSO group’s Pegasus spyware attack indicated that several Janata Dal (secular) and congressional politicians and their aides in Karnataka during the period when the state government was embroiled in an intense power struggle with the Bharatiya Janata Party , were attacked – which ultimately led to BJP. led government formation in the country.

Why is it important? These revelations have had a significant impact on the state of surveillance and privacy in the country. Previous reports said that the congressional politician Rahul Gandhi and former member of the electoral commission Ashok Lavasa protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi were listed as “potential targets of surveillance”. The Confirmed Spyware Attack Against Poll Strategists Prashant Kishor which was key to the victory of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal against BJP, indicated that there may be a political motive behind these alleged spyware attacks. The Wire’s report on the Karnataka government on Tuesday only corroborated that hint.

The Wire said in its report that the phone numbers of Deputy Prime Minister G Parameshwara and the Personal Secretaries of Former Prime Ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah were selected as possible monitoring objectives. The numbers are part of a leaked database accessed by the French non-profit media organization Forbidden Stories and shared with an international media consortium.

The Wire’s findings –

  • Two phone numbers from Satish, the personal secretary of then CM HD Kumaraswamy, were selected for potential targeting in mid-2019
  • Telephone number of the personal secretary of former Congress Secretary Siddaramaiah Venkatesh included in the list
  • Number of police officer Manjunath Muddegowda, one of the security forces of former Prime Minister and JD (S) President HD Devegowda, was also included in the list

However, the news portal said it was “not possible to conclusively determine whether these political-related phones in Karnataka were infected or subjected to an attempted hacker attack”.

“Numbers selected during political unrest”

In 2019, when these numbers were apparently selected for potential target tracking for surveillance, there was an intense one Power struggle between the BJP and the JD (S) Congress coalition government. Congress and JD (S) had alleged that BJP, supported by the Union government, had tried to overthrow their coalition government. Although the BJP denied these allegations, the rebel MPs disqualified by the House Speaker joined the BJP. The alleged horse trade was referred to as Operation Lotus – “a term first coined by opposition parties to refer to the allegedly frequent attempts by the ruling BJP to overthrow democratically elected governments.”

What did the potential victims say?

The Wire quoted Siddaramaiah’s associate Venkatesh, whose number was also on the list, as saying, “I don’t know if my phone was a sniffing target. All I can say is that I am not doing anything illegal. If what you are claiming is true, it is false, and I strongly condemn such practice. ”According to the portal, Venkatesh declined a forensic examination of his phone.

The officer associated with JD (S) President HD Devegowda refused to speak to The Wire. Former Deputy Prime Minister of Congress G Parameshwara, who the report claims was selected as a candidate for surveillance, told The Wire, “I have no idea about the spyware. But if my phone number was monitored at all, as you claim, I don’t know why it was. I wasn’t involved in political management at the time. I wasn’t even President of the Pradesh Congress Committee at the time. “

Who else is affected by Pegasus?

According to a report by The cable, Between 2017 and 2019, 40 Indian journalists were listed as targets. The list includes journalists from almost every major media company.

  • Ritika Chopra (Senior Assistant Editor), Muzamil Jaleel (Cashmir Chief of Bureau), Sushant Singh (Former Associate Editor) of the Indian Express
  • Siddharth Vardarajan (Founding Editor), MK Venu (Founding Editor), Devirupa Mitra (Diplomatic Editor) of The Wire.
  • Rohini Singh, Swati Chaturvedi, and Prem Shankar Jha, who are contributors to The Wire, were also listed.
  • Shishir Gupta (Editor-in-Chief), Prashant Jha (Former Bureau Chief), Rahul Singh at Hindustan Times
  • Vijaita Singh from The Hindu
  • Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (formerly EPW Editor)
  • SNM Abdi (formerly outlook Journalist)
  • Sandeep Unnithan (Senior Correspondent) at India Today
  • Saikat Dutta (Former Senior Editor at Asia Times)
  • J. Gopikrishnan (former special correspondent for The Pioneer)
  • Smita Sharma (former reporter at The Tribune)
  • Iftikhar Ghilani (DNA reporter)
  • Santosh Bhartiya (former Lok Sabha MP and journalist)
  • Roopesh Kumar Singh (independent journalist)
  • Sanjay Shyam (journalist)
  • Jaspal Singh Heran (Editor of the Punjabi daily newspaper Rozana Pehredar)
  • Manoranjan Gupta (Editor-in-Chief of Frontier TV)

Of these, 8 journalists’ smartphones, underwent forensic analysis and showed that –

  • The smartphones from SNM Abidi, Sushant Singh, MK Venu, Siddharth Vardarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta were infected with the Pegasus spyware.
  • Smita Sharma’s iPhone and Vijaita Singh’s Android phone showed evidence of an attempted hack, but no evidence of a successful completion.
  • Another mainstream newspaper editor’s iPhone was subject to analysis, but the report says no traces of Pegasus could be found, mainly because it was not the same device she was using during the period her name is in the List was mentioned.
  • 2021 will be Sushant Singhs The iPhone was compromised from March to July 2021 by “what Amnesty International calls a zero-click exploit on the iMessage service”. MK Venus Telefon was also infected by a zero-click exploit in June 2021.
  • In April 2018, Siddharth became Vardarajans Phone was compromised along with SNM Adbidis and Paranjoy Guha Thakurtas Cell Phones. Thakurta’s phone was subsequently compromised while May, June and July 2018 also while Abidi’s phone subsequently during. has been compromised April, May, July, October and December 2019. The method by which all three were attacked could not be determined.

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