What Next: NSO Cyberattack On Indian WhatsApp Users

by GoNews Desk 2 weeks ago Views 1106
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The 'NSO Cyberattack' on WhatsApp users globally has had Indian links as confirmed by the social media company linked to India’s largest social media platform, Facebook. 

A spokesperson for WhatsApp India confirmed that there were Indian users who were targeted and they were informed before the company moved court against NSO/Q Cyber Technologies in the United State and made the matter public. 

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There are speculations in India on who were the persons compromised by the cyber-attack and what was the information they were exchanging which was sought by the attackers. Names of random organisations, lawyers and journalists are doing the rounds which cannot be confirmed until they volunteer the information themselves. India has the largest subscriber base for WhatsApp and Facebook.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has clarified its position on the attack in a detailed public response.

It has filed a criminal case in a US court against the Israel based software company which developed the so called Pegasus spyware software used to breach people’s phones. “There was a vulnerability in our video calling which they used. We upgraded the Operating System as soon as it was detected,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said, adding that the hackers could get access to the mobile phone data once the hacking software was installed on phone. 

In its complaint, WhatsApp stated that between approximately April 29, 2019, and May 10, 2019, “defendants caused their malicious code to be transmitted over WhatsApp servers in an effort to infect approximately 1,400 Target Devices. The Target Users included attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials”. 

The company describes the High Level Architecture of the Pegasus system which is designed in layers.“ Each layer has its own responsibility forming together a comprehensive cyber intelligence collection and analysis solution”, it states. 

WhatsApp took help of Canada based Citizen’s Lab which has also provided details of the attack and how they were able to identify the targets of the spyware.

The spyware company NSO/Q Cyber Technologies is notorious for selling its products to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa who spy on their opponents, inside and outside the countries. The company specifically states it sells its products to government clients only and in accordance with Israeli government export laws. 

The question looms as to who was paying NSO/Q Cyber Technologies for including Indian WhatsApp users? Was it an outside agency or an Indian entity? Why were Indians targeted? And what information was sought by this cyber attack which was pin-pointed and specific? 

These questions can be answered only when the victims come forward.

Meanwhile,  IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, has said the government "is concerned" and has asked WhatsApp to clarify on the issue