IT Minister Dodges Question On Govt's Involvement In Pegasus, Denies Breach Of Laws
The government has issued a notice to the Israeli firm accused of misusing WhatsApp via Pegasus software for snooping on Indian citizens, Electronics and Information and Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
Prasad also said that The Computer Emergency Team-India (CERT-In) has asked for an audit of WhatsApp’s security systems and processes.
The Centre on Thursday clarified on WhatsApp snoop gate that “no unauthorized interception was done in the country”. Responding to a question by Digvijaya Singh, Prasad said, “The government and the security agencies were following Standard Operating Procedure, and no unauthorised interception was done.”
While answering to Digvijaya Singh’s question: “Did the government of India buy Pegasus software or not?”, Prasad said, “We operate through Standard operating procedures. If Digvijay Singh thinks that terrorism should be strongly dealt with, then he shouldn’t interfere and question it further.”
When Digvijay Singh again asked if the government or any government agency executed any financial transaction with Israel’s NSO Group which sold Pegasus software to governments, Prasad said they have sent notice to NSO group.
Prasad said, “For snooping, there is ₹five lakh fine but not a single FIR has been filed. No complaint has been made to the IT ministry. Suddenly, we found names in the media and plenty of those have a political agenda and those against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Speaking further, the Union minister said, “Those who allege snooping should file an FIR and take compensation. They should get those behind alleged snoop gate arrested.”
The Union Minister further said that digital technology and mobiles phones were used in terror attacks including 26/1 Mumbai terror attack. In the interest of sovereignty of India, surveillance can be done with due authorization in cases of terror-related crime and corruption cases.
Prasad said cybersecurity agency CERT-In had sought information from WhatsApp over the inspection of WhatsApp’s security systems and processes on November 9 following response from WhatsApp on November 18.
Stating that WhatsApp CEO had made no mention of vulnerability in their system by Pegasus spyware during his meeting with the Ministry, Prasad also warned digital players that they must erect appropriate security walls, failing to which appropriate action would be taken.
According to WhatsApp, spyware Pegasus was developed by Israel-based NSO Group and was used to snoop on about 1,400 users globally, including 121 from India.