London/New Delhi, Jul 18 : Several journalist, activists, lawyers and influential persons have been targeted, including in India, through hacking of phones by an Israeli spyware company, according to British newspaper Guardian.
The investigation by 17 media organisations, including Guardian, suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
Some media reports said there were at least 40 Indian journalists in the list.
The Indian government, however, denied resorting to any action like illegal tapping of phones.
“The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever,” the Indian government said in a statement.
“This news report, thus also appears to be a similar fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions.”
“In India, there is a well established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out in order for the purpose of national security by agencies at the Centre and States,” said the statement.
Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the leaked list and shared access with media partners as part of the Pegasus project, a reporting consortium.
The numbers of more than 180 journalists are listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, France 24, the Economist, Associated Press and Reuters.
The Guardian and its media partners will be revealing the identities of people whose number appeared on the list in the coming days.