At least one number used by Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the tens of thousands of smartphone numbers revealed to have been targeted by Israeli spyware, including those of activists, journalists, business executives, and politicians from around the world.
According to the Washington Post, hundreds of Pakistani phone numbers appeared on the Indian surveillance list, including one previously used by the prime minister. There were also over 1,000 Indian phone numbers on the list. The report did not say whether or not the attempt on the PM’s phone number was successful.
According to an investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organisations, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were chosen as potential targets of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware programme by clients of the NSO Group cyberespionage firm.
One of the media outlets, The Guardian, reported that the investigation revealed “widespread and ongoing abuse” of NSO’s hacking software, which is described as malware that infects smartphones and allows the extraction of messages, photos, and emails, as well as the recording of calls and the secret activation of microphones.
The leaked data contained phone numbers previously known to have been used by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Kashmiri leaders, Pakistani diplomats, Chinese journalists, Sikh activists, and businesspeople under police investigation.
The opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, the most prominent political rival of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was twice identified as a potential surveillance target in leaked phone number data, making him one of dozens of Indian politicians, journalists, activists, and government critics whose numbers were identified as potential targets for the Israeli company’s government clients.
NSO, on the other hand, stated that its product is only intended for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism and crime.
On its website, the company issued a statement denying the reporting by the 17 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.
“The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality,” the company said in the statement.
“After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report,” the statement said.