The Chhattisgarh Police has written to the Israeli company behind the Pegasus spyware that was used, according to recent revelations, to snoop on around 1,400 individuals, including 121 Indians, by misusing a WhatsApp vulnerability.
In a letter to Shalev Hulio, a co-founder of NSO Group, which developed and sells Pegasus, the police have asked for information on the Israeli firm's alleged meeting and presentation to senior police officers of the state in 2017. According to news reports, the presentation was made to senior IPS officers in Raipur during 2017 (when an earlier government was in place). People in the state were allegedly subject to the snooping enabled by Pegasus through WhatsApp.
In the letter dated November 5, according to sources, the state police has asked NSO Group about particulars of their visit to Raipur, who was in their team, whom they met in the state police and details of the meeting.
The department is also considering writing to WhatsApp.
In May, WhatsApp has said it became aware of NSO Group having used a coding glitch in the messaging app that let its customers spy on some people. WhatsApp fixed the issue, and worked with Citizen Lab, a digital and human rights research group, to contact all those affected, telling them what they could do to keep their communications safe. On October 29, WhatsApp decided to sue NSO Group for misusing the messaging platform’s code to compromise user privacy.
NSO Group has maintained that it sells Pegasus only to governments. The Indian government has already asked WhatsApp to explain the breach of Indians' privacy but has also come under some heat for not answering whether any of its agencies bought Pegasus software.
On Friday, 19 Indians whose devices were targeted by Pegasus through WhatsApp wrote an open letter, asking the government to reveal information in this regard.
“As affected persons and concerned citizens, we appeal to the Government of India to reveal whatever information it has about this cyber attack, other similar methods of mass surveillance and the identity of the concerned players," went the letter.
One outcome is that a number of people, including bureaucrats and journalists, have moved to alternative messaging platforms such as Signal or Telegram.