Assam journalist in WhatsApp Spynet

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An Assam journalist was in WhatsApp spynet through a malware inserted on WhatsApp as he was spied upon by ‘someone’ controlling the phone he was carrying remotely.

The Assam Journalist was Ashish Gupta of Pratidin Group.

The WhatsApp has confirmed that at least two dozen journalists, academicians, Dalit and human rights activists, in India have been targeted for surveillance for a two week period until May 2019.

The journalists’ phones were spied by using a new Israeli technology developed by a firm called NSO, where the phone gets a video call. Even if you do not return the phone, the malware is installed remotely that can be used. Through Whatsapp, the phone camera can be switched on and record, all the conversations can be recorded and even all the data can be taken out of the phone.

WhatsApp contacted the users and alerted them that their phones had been under surveillance.

Ashish Gupta, heads the Asomiya Pratidin Bureau at New Delhi, also a civil rights activist with Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation: “I am a journalist and a human rights activist. I got a call from Canada’s Citizen Lab in early October… I was told about WhatsApp and advised some basic precautions. On July 5, a very odd thing happened. I found myself removed from all WhatsApp groups without my taking any action.”

“Indian journalists and human rights activists have been the target of surveillance and while I cannot reveal their identities and the exact number, I can say that it is not an insignificant number,” the Whatsapp spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, John Scot Raielton of Citizen Lab in Canada has sent videos to Ashish Gupta and other journalists, who were snooped upon by the Israeli Malware.

The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister denied any involvement and rather demanded to know from the Israeli organisation about their activities while vowing to uphold the basic right of privacy by an Indian citizen.

Earlier WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Israeli technology firm NSO Group, accusing it of using the Facebook-owned messaging service to target some 1,400 WhatsApp users including journalists, human rights activists, and others.

WhatsApp alleged that the companies violated US and California laws as well as WhatsApp’s terms of service which prohibit this type of abuse. It claimed that smartphones were penetrated through missed calls alone.

Meanwhile, The NSO Group has been adamant that it only sells its software to governments for “fighting crime and terror” and that it investigates credible allegations of misuse.

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