Sunday September 26, 2021

Shahzad terms spying through spyware attack on Pakistan sovereignty

APP
July 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Barrister Shahzad Akbar Saturday said the country has decided to thoroughly investigate the attempted Indian cyber espionage attacks on mobile phones and gadgets of government’s top officials.Addressing a news conference, flanked by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar said the officials from security agencies and foreign office would be included in the inquiry committee to probe into a data leak of software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO to India.

The country would share findings of investigations with the United Nations and other international organisations. The investigation would ascertain whether the Indian cyber spy attack was successful or not.

Pakistan would also take up the espionage issue at the United Nations. Terming it an attack on the national security and sovereignty of Pakistan, Shahzad Akbar said this Indian act is a clear breach of global norms of responsible state behaviour. Pakistan would weigh legal options to raise the issue at various fora to protect its sovereignty.

He said Pakistan has decided to seek a United Nations probe into India’s use of Pegasus spyware against the country's top officials as espionage of such nature was a bigger scam than of Panama leak.

The relevant UN bodies should conduct thorough investigation into whether India used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to spy on public figures including Prime Minister Imran Khan and bring the facts to light. He said the Indian espionage to Pakistan was exposed by an investigation by a group of 17 international media organisations and Amnesty International which revealed that Pakistan was the potential surveillance targets of the spyware bought from Israel by India.

He said Pakistan’s foreign office had already issued a statement accusing India of ‘state-sponsored, continuing and widespread surveillance and spying operations in clear breach of global norms of responsible state behaviour. ‘The Pegasus, malware that is used to conduct cyber surveillance, to authoritarian governments who want to spy on journalists, activists, politicians and government officials. The software can infiltrate iPhones and Androids, enabling the operator to record calls, retrieve photos, messages, and emails without the knowledge of the phone user. Though the company claims that it only sells its software to those who want to use it against terrorists and criminals.

A massive data leak from the company's records shows its clients may have used data against targets who fall into neither of those categories. The leak contains the phone numbers of 50,000 individuals, he said.

NSO has said its product was intended only for use by vetted government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.

The adviser said according to the investigation of France based international media and Amnesty International, Prime Minister Imran Khan is on a list of those people for whom this spyware was used by India.

At least 10 countries including India were believed to be NSO clients.

The phone numbers in the leak span various countries, including Pakistan, where a number once used by Prime Minister Imran Khan was targeted for potential surveillance.