The Government of India has asked messaging giant Whatsapp to reinforce its security wall to secure its communication platform from breaches. It has also made it clear that any more breaches in the Facebook-owned platform will not be tolerated. WhatsApp has written to the government expressing "regret" over the Pegasus snooping row, and has assured that it is taking all security measures to address concerns, top government sources said.
In response to a question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Cybersecurity agency CERT-In has issued a notice to WhatsApp seeking details on targeting mobile phones of Indian citizens by Israeli spyware Pegasus. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) met on the same day to discuss issues of invasion of privacy and WhatsApp. Officials from Home and IT ministries also made presentations on the topic.
Earlier, maintaining that the government was concerned about the breach of privacy of Indians, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that WhatsApp had been asked for an explanation in this regard. Following the government's notice seeking more information on the attacks, WhatsApp had responded saying it had alerted the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in September that 121 Indian users had been targeted by Pegasus. WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India.
A WhatsApp spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said the company is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of its users in India "by providing industry-leading security for all messages and calls and by staying ahead of advanced threats to user security". "The government also plays a critical role here and we are committed to engaging them in a timely manner on sensitive issues related to user privacy and security. We regret that we have not met the government's expectations for proactive engagement on these issues and will strive to do better," the spokesperson said. The spokesperson also noted that the company will work with the government to "address their appropriate concerns".