WhatsApp expresses ‘regret’ over Pegasus snooping row

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Published: November 20, 2019 7:21:30 PM

Following the government's notice seeking more information on the attacks, WhatsApp had responded saying it had alerted the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in September that 121 Indian users had been targeted by Pegasus.

A WhatsApp spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said the company is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of its users in India “by providing industry-leading security for all messages and calls and by staying ahead of advanced threats to user security”.

WhatsApp has written to the government expressing “regret” over the Pegasus snooping row, and has assured that it is taking all security measures to address concerns, top government sources said. The sources, who requested not to be named, said the government has asked WhatsApp to reinforce its security wall, and that no more breaches at the messaging platform will be tolerated.

Last month, the Facebook-owned company had showed that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using Pegasus spyware. According to WhatsApp, the spyware was developed by Israel-based NSO Group and had been used to snoop on about 1,400 users globally, including 121 users from India.

Following the government’s notice seeking more information on the attacks, WhatsApp had responded saying it had alerted the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in September that 121 Indian users had been targeted by Pegasus. A WhatsApp spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said the company is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of its users in India “by providing industry-leading security for all messages and calls and by staying ahead of advanced threats to user security”.

WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India. “The government also plays a critical role here and we are committed to continuing to engage them in a timely manner on sensitive issues related to user privacy and security. We regret that we have not met the government’s expectations for proactive engagement on these issues and will strive to do better,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also noted that the company will work with the government to “address their appropriate concerns”. In response to a question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Cybersecurity agency CERT-In has issued a notice to WhatsApp seeking details on targeting of mobile phones of Indian citizens by Israeli spyware Pegasus.

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