Indian businessman Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Group, former CBI Chief Alok Verma, and former CBI officers Rakesh Asthana and AK Sharma are among the most recent names to surface as part of the Pegasus Spyware project. According to The Wire, Anil Ambani’s phone number appeared shortly after he was removed in a midnight coup when the acquisition of 36 Rafale jets went public.
The Wire is among 16 media outlets from around the world working along with the French nonprofit Forbidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International on a worldwide investigation into a database of phone numbers that may have been compromised by spyware.
The media outlets, also reported that the leaked database of 50,000 numbers included phones numbers used by Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani, Reliance ADA Group corporate communications chief Tony Jesudasan, and his wife. The numbers surfaced in 2018, according to the report, and Jesudasan has been acknowledged to be a troubleshooter for the group. The numbers allegedly vanished after the Supreme Court’s Rafale judgment in December 2018. The phone number of journalist Sushant Singh, who covered the Rafale controversy intensively, was previously claimed to be identified in the records.
The Wire revealed that the Chief of the CBI, Alok Verma that he had the power to impose surveillance during the period before he was replaced. His number as well surfaced on a database of at least 10 phones with indications of having the spyware. The report claims that 8 phone numbers belonging to Verma’s family are featured in the records, which include those of his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. By the second week of February 2019, Verma’s and his family numbers was been wiped away. In October 2018, Verma was removed from the CBI. Asthana, who was also dismissed at the time, is now the CRPF’s chief. The appearance of a phone number in the leaked database does not signify whether or not a device has been infected with any spyware.
More than 50,000 phone numbers previously reported were believed of having been compromised by spyware Pegasus. Pegasus was designed and sold to government organizations by the Israel-based company NSO Group Technologies. Around 300 phone numbers linked to two existing ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition politicians, and one serving judge, as well as dozens of business individuals and activists, could have been targeted in India, based on media reports.
Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw remarked on Monday that the media report about the deployment of Pegasus via WhatsApp has “no substance,” and that the allegation is an attempt to discredit Indian democracy and its well-established agencies.
Source: The Wire