Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addressing the Parliament over the WhatApp snoopgate row on Thursday asserted that the government is firm on safeguarding the security of Indians. Meanwhile the Congress questioned the role of the government in Pegasus, the contentious software which was meant for government use on a per-license basis.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "On 5 September, 2019 WhatsApp wrote to CERT-In providing update to the security incident reported in May 2019 stating that while the full extent of this attack may never be known, WhatsApp continues to review the available info. It also mentioned that based on WhatsApp data available, they believe that the attackers may have attempted to reach the devices of approximately 121 users in India."
Skeptical on Ravi Shankar Prasad's claim, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the spy row citing fundamental rights and national security.. "What was the Government's role? They should tell the House if people were spied upon. The government should tell us which journalists, activists were targeted in the breach. This is a violation of right of privacy," the Congress leader said.
In response to which, the Law Minister said, "No unauthorised interception was done. Digital players, both Indian and foreign are welcomed to contribute in growing market but must understand that safety and security of Indians is of prime importance. They must erect appropriate security walls to ensure this, or appropriate action will be taken."
"They say their messages are encrypted. But if a message instigates violence, terrorism, communal violence then we have to understand the origin. This is what we are arguing with Whatsapp. The government is very firm, we don't want to breach your encryption. But as far as any specific case of serious case of law and order, you will have to share the origin of that message," he added.
The hackers were able to install the surveillance software on phones of the targets on WhatsApp. According to reports, the target of the hack received audio or video calls from unknown callers, which is ignored, allowing the hacker to be installed in their mobile device. The Pegasus software-enabled hackers to access the details on the phone, including the text messages and location of the target. India, with 400 million users, is the biggest market for WhatsApp.