Two founding editors of The Wire are on this list, as is its diplomatic editor and two of its regular contributors, including Rohini Singh. Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver on this track with 8 wins to his name. Alain Prost, the greatest French driver in the history of the sport had 6 wins in a French Grand Prix. On the current grid, Lewis Hamiton boasts of 2 wins in a French Grand Prix, both coming behind the wheels of the all-conquering Mercedes in 2018 and 2019.
Venu, for whom specific forensic analysis showed evidence of their phones being infected by Pegasus. The number of Devirupa Mitra,The Wire’s diplomatic editor, also appears in the records. The France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International first had access to this leaked list which they shared withThe Wire and 15 other news organisations worldwide as part of a lengthy collaborative investigation called the Pegasus Project. Digital forensic analysis was also conducted for the iPhone of a senior editor at a mainstream Indian newspaper, but no traces of Pegasus were found — primarily because it was not the same device being used by the journalist when her number showed up on the list. Independent digital forensic analysis conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab on 10 Indian phones whose numbers were present in the data showed signs of either an attempted or successful Pegasus hack. ForbiddenStories andThe Wirealso reached out to a number of other journalists, both at mainstream publications and otherwise, to ask whether they would be open to participating in a forensic analysis.
He was released six months later on bail as the police failed to file a charge sheet within the stipulated time. In 2019, WhatsApp, along with Canada-based Citizen Lab, alerted dozens of Indians who had been affected by a Pegasus attack that exploited a hole in the messaging app firm’s security.
The number of formerIndian Expressjournalist Sushant Singh appears on the list in mid-2018, at a time when he was working on an investigation into the controversial Rafale aircraft deal with France, besides other stories. Digital forensics conducted on Singh’s current phone showed signs of Pegasus infection earlier this year. Those on leaked list of potential targets include journalists at Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Wire, Indian Express, News18, India Today, Pioneer, besides freelancers, columnists and regional media.
One young television reporter, who requested that her name be withheld as she has left the profession to pursue a career in another field, toldThe Wirethat the only story she can remember doing during the period the data suggests she might have been targeted for surveillance was on the CBSE paper leak. A good chunk of the journalists who appear in the records are based out of the national capital and work with prominent organisations. For Smita Sharma, the analysis found evidence of a hacking attempt through a vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage system, but nothing to indicate that her phone was successfully infected.
NSO will not confirm whether the Indian government is a customer but the presence of Pegasus infections in the phones of journalists and others in India and the nature of the targets selected for a potential hack suggests that one or more official agencies here are actively using the spyware. This inference must be drawn because Pegasus can only be used by a client of NSO and NSO has only “vetted governments” as clients. Of equal importance is how the results the forensic analysis threw up shows sequential correlations between the time and date a phone number is entered in the list and the beginning of surveillance. In some cases, including forensic tests conducted for two India numbers, the time between a number appearing on the list and the successful detection of a trace of Pegasus infection is just seconds. The Pegasus Project, a consortium of news organisations that analysed this list, has reason to believe that the data is indicative of potential targets identified in advance of surveillance attempts. The presence of a phone number in the data does alone not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack – technical examination of the phone’s data is needed for that.
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Independent forensic analysis conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab on a small worldwide cross-section of the smartphones of the people on the leaked list threw up traces of Pegasus spyware infection in over half the cases. Among the 13 iPhones examined in India, nine showed evidence of being targeted, of which seven were successfully infected with Pegasus. Among nine Androids tested, one showed dowmarkets evidence of targeting while 8 were inconclusive, mainly because Android logs do not provide the kind of detail Amnesty’s team needs to confirm the presence of Pegasus. Specific digital forensics conducted by AI ‘s Security Lab found traces of Pegasus spyware on the mobile phones of six Indian journalists who agreed to have their phones examined after discovering their number was in the leaked data.
NSO disputes the claim that the leaked list is linked in any way to the functioning of its spyware. 1,500 kilometres south east of Ludhiana we find another journalist not immediately prominent but of immense interest to the Indian client of NSO group. Roopesh Kumar Singh is an independent journalist based in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh and three phone numbers belonging to him are part of the leaked data. Apart from Rohini Singh, the phone number of another regular contributor toThe Wire – senior columnist Prem Shankar Jha, who writes mainly on political and security matters – also appears in the records, as does freelance journalist Swati Chaturvedi, who was also writing for The Wireat the time she was selected.
They refused, citing a number of reasons including a lack of support from their management or their inability to trust the underlying process. Other prominent media houses also had at least one journalist whose phone number appears in the leaked records. This includes Ritika Chopra and Muzamil Jaleel of the Indian Express, Sandeep Unnithan ofIndia Today,Manoj Gupta at TV18,and Vijaita Singh, who covers the home ministry forThe Hinduand whose phone contained traces of an attempted simplefx academy Pegasus infection. Founded in 2010, the NSO Group is best known for having created Pegasus, which allows those operating it to remotely hack into smartphones and gain access to their contents and functions, including the microphone and camera. The company has always insisted Pegasus is not sold to private entities or even to any and every government. In fact, in its letter to The Wire and its media partners, NSO reiterated that it sells its spyware only to “vetted governments”.
The octogenarian told the Pegasus Project that due to his newspapers’ critical reportage, he has had run-ins with all governments over the years and has been at the receiving end of several legal notices. The leaked data also throws up the numbers of journalists who work far away from Lutyens’ Delhi and the national glare. This includes north-east-based editor in chief of Frontier TV Manoranjana Gupta, Bihar-based Sanjay Shyam and Jaspal Singh Heran.
- Other prominent media houses also had at least one journalist whose phone number appears in the leaked records.
- “My investigative book on the BJP’s secret digital army exposed the Modi government attacking citizens in a democracy… I take Modi’s illegal surveillance as a compliment to the investigative journalism I do,” said Chaturvedi.
- Those on leaked list of potential targets include journalists at Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Wire, Indian Express, News18, India Today, Pioneer, besides freelancers, columnists and regional media.
- “My job is to continue stories… News doesn’t stop, stories should be told as they are, without suppressing the facts or with any embellishment,”The Hindu’sVijaita Singh toldThe Wire,adding that it would not be “appropriate to hazard a guess” on why anyone would view her as a potential target for surveillance.
This is the third time an iconic art work is targeted to draw attention to the environment. I share the combat against more oil but I don’t share the values of these activists. By destroying it or creating the illusion of destroying it, you do not elevate human values to embrace the fight against global warming. The French Grand Prix has been held at multiple tracks in the past including Magny Cours and Paul Ricard.
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The race was one of the permanent fixtures of the Formula One Calendar until 2008 when the race had to be taken off the calendar citing Financial issues. The security lab’s overarching methodology was peer-reviewed and endorsed by Citizen Lab. In June 2019, Singh was arrested by the Bihar police and booked for possession of explosives under the stringent Unlawful Activities Act .
“They don’t like it if we are critical of the direction in which this country is heading under their leadership. Of that group, records show that former Lok Sabha MP and veteran journalist Santosh Bharatiya was also marked on the list in early 2019. The former parliamentarian, who early in his career worked as a journalist, publicly stated that he too had received a message from WhatsApp. Gopikrishnan, an investigative reporter with The Pioneer, credited with having broken the 2G telecom scam. “Being a journalist, I contact many people and many want to know who all I contact,” he told The Wire.
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Amnesty International’s Security Lab was able to conduct digital forensics on the phones of seven journalists. The organisation’s results were tested for robustness through a blind test carried out by experts at Citizen Lab, a It Help Desk Ticketing System University of Toronto-based institute whose research partially laid the groundwork for WhatsApp’s landmark lawsuit against the NSO Group in 2019. AtThe Wire, those targeted were founder-editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K.
The GP returned to the calendar in 2018 at Paul Ricard and received a lukewarm response because of the nature of the track. The Circuit Paul Ricard is a great track for testing a Formula One car but when it comes to the wheel to wheel action and racing there isn’t much on offer. Out of these, Amnesty found evidence that the phones of Sushant Singh, Thakurta, Abdi, Varadarajan and Venu were compromised with Pegasus spyware.
The company refuses to make its list of customers public but the presence of Pegasus infections in India, and the range of persons that may have been selected for targeting, strongly indicate that the agency operating the spyware on Indian numbers is an official Indian one. The leaked data includes the numbers of top journalists at big media houses like theHindustan Times, including executive editor Shishir Gupta,India Today, Network18,The HinduandIndian Express. Heran is editor-in-chief of the Ludhiana-based Punjabi daily Rozana Pehredar. The newspaper has reporters in every district of Punjab, is read widely and has a sizeable impact on the narrative in the state.
“Given the abandon with which this government is abusing the Indian constitution to incarcerate its staunchest defenders, I am torn between considering this a threat and a compliment,” Jha said, when informed about his selection as a target for surveillance. On Saturday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology reiterated this stand in a response to a questionnaire about individual targets sent by Pegasus Project partners. Ferrari has been the most dominant constructor in the French Grand Prix with as many as 17 wins. Williams is second on the list with 8 wins while Mercedes has 7 wins in the French GP. The French Grand Prix is a Formula One race held at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France.
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“My job is to continue stories… News doesn’t stop, stories should be told as they are, without suppressing the facts or with any embellishment,”The Hindu’sVijaita Singh toldThe Wire,adding that it would not be “appropriate to hazard a guess” on why anyone would view her as a potential target for surveillance. While the Narendra Modi government has not so far issued a categorical denial that Pegasus is officially being used, it has been dismissive of allegations that Pegasus might have been used to conduct illegal surveillance of targets in India. Vijaita Singh’s Android phone also showed evidence of an attempted hack, but no evidence of a successful compromise was detected. Deepak Gidwani, another name on the list, was principal correspondent with DNA based in Lucknow between 2006 and 2016.
She reports on foreign policy issues and was deputy editor with The Tribune when the hacking attempts allegedly took place. The phones of formerIndian Expressjournalist Sushant Singh, India Ahead News contributing editor Smita Sharma, former EPWeditor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, formerOutlook journalist S.N.M. Abdi, The Hindu’s Vijaita Singh andThe Wire’stwo founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Singh’s phone appears in the leaked records just a few months after the story, according to Pegasus Project data. While some journalists appear to have been added to the list at more or less the same time, suggesting official interest in the group, others figure as standalone entries, perhaps for the stories they were working on at the time.
Since then he has stepped away from journalism to pursue spiritual interests. The Wire’s analysis of the data shows that most of the above mentioned names were targeted between 2018 and 2019 – in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections. “My investigative book on the BJP’s secret digital army exposed the Modi government attacking citizens in a democracy… I take Modi’s illegal surveillance as a compliment to the investigative journalism I do,” said Chaturvedi.
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The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Two journalists whose phone numbers appear in the leaked records obtained by the Pegasus Project, are among those who received messages from WhatsApp in 2019 that their phones were compromised. Several senior journalists who have left mainstream organisations also appear in the leaked data as individuals who were selected. Pegasus is sold by the Israeli company, NSO Group, which says it only offers its spyware to “vetted governments”.