The second part of the Pegasus Project reveals that the mobile phones of certain politicians, including Cabinet ministers and opposition leaders, and bureaucrats were allegedly spied upon. A media report said the second list of the global investigation includes names of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, along with Union Ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Patel.
A report in The Wire said that these people are part of the list of over 1,000 who were spied upon using the Pegasus software and around 300 of these have been verified. The report said that the list featured at least two phone numbers of Gandhi along with numbers of his close aides and friends. Gandhi, however, had stopped using those numbers and it couldn’t be established whether Pegasus was deployed again to spy on him, though many attempts were made to do so, the report said.
As per the report, Lavasa’s number was found on the list of suspected targets, while Vaishnaw, who is currently the Union Minister for Railways and IT, was tagged as a surveillance target in 2017. The list also includes another number which is suspected to be his wife’s.
Another Union Minister Prahlad Patel, too, was targeted along with his wife. The report suggested that around 15 phone numbers that belonged to Patel and his wife were allegedly targeted using Pegasus.
Prashant Kishor's name also figured in the list of people who were allegedly spied upon. He was the key poll strategist of Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, which won the third consecutive term in West Bengal in May this year. The report alleged that his phone was snooped upon during the state elections. Abhishek Banerjee, Mamata’s nephew, was also considered as a potential target, although his phone was not examined forensically to ascertain whether a breach had taken place or not.
But upon examination of Kishor's phone, it was revealed that several unsuccessful attempts were allegedly made in 2018, a few months prior to the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.
First Published: IST
Explained: How spyware Pegasus, used to snoop on specific targets, infects phones
Pegasus sees messages, tracks call logs, user activity through apps, gathers location data of the device, can access the camera, and listen in through the microphone.