Created by Israel-based surveillance tech company NSO Group, the Pegasus spyware was allegedly used to hack into smartphones of ministers, opposition leaders and journalists in India.
According to a 2016 New York Times report, the NSO — which claims to deal with only authorised governments — doesn't sell its spyware cheap. In fact, the cost of spying on people by putting Pegasus in their smartphones runs into crores.
The Israeli firm charges an installation fee of $500,000 (around Rs 3.7 crore), $650,000 (Rs 4.8 crore) to spy on 10 iPhones or Android users; $500,000 to spy on five BlackBerry users; or $300,000 (Rs 2.23 crore) to spy on five Symbian users, according to the report.
The report adds that 100 additional spyware targets cost $800,000 (around Rs 5.9 crore). The price for 50 extra targets is $500,000, for 20 extra targets is $250,000 (Rs 1.8 crore), and for 10 extra targets is $150,000 (Rs 1.1 crore).
The NSO Group also charges a hefty maintenance fee of 17 percent of the total price.
Going by this 2016 price chart and considering that 300 people were put under such surveillance, the service would have cost a few hundred crores. The cost would shoot up further if renewal charges and annual cost escalation are factored in.
Meanwhile, French media rights organisation — Forbidden Stories — has clarified that the presence of a phone number in the database doesn't necessarily mean that the corresponding device was infected with Pegasus.
Among Indians, the database had the phone numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa and leaders of the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka and 40 journalists.