Prashant Kishor’s phone hacked in sync with Bengal election: Pegasus report
Election strategist Prashant Kishor was revealed today to be among hundreds of names in India targeted by Israeli spyware “Pegasus” for alleged surveillance via infected cell phones. Digital forensics reveals his phone was hacked in recent Bengal elections, in which he worked with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said The Wire, part of a global media consortium that exposed the scandal espionage.
Prashant Kishor said his phone was “still hacked” despite having changed handsets several times. “We used to suspect espionage, but we never did a hack, also from 2017 to 2021. Although I have changed handsets five times, as the evidence suggests, the hacking continues.” , he told NDTV.
According to a forensic analysis cited in The Wire report, Mr. Kishor’s phone was compromised on July 14. He is in talks with Congress.
The strategist ace played an important role in the BJP campaign in 2014 that catapulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power. He has since worked with a range of clients going against the BJP.
Recently, he was credited with helping Mamata Banerjee defeat BJP in Bengal. Investigations reveal that Mr. Kishor’s phone was compromised on July 13, the day he met with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi in Delhi. âIn fact, a hack into Kishor’s phone occurred even on the date The Wire met him and the AI ââhelped conduct a forensic analysis on it,â The Wire said.
The forensic examination of his current phone showed unsuccessful attempts to launch a Pegasus attack on his phone in 2018, just months before the 2019 general election. The full extent of Pegasus use against him is not visible on the forensic level because he no longer uses the device and only the traces of 2018 transferred to his current iPhone via a backup are visible.
Amnesty’s forensic analysis found “traces of infection” on Mr. Kishor’s phone on April 28, just a day before Bengal’s eight-phase final round of elections in March-April.
According to The Wire, traces of Pegasus on Mr. Kishor’s phone were also detected for 14 days in June and 12 days in July.
Sources from I-PAC, Mr Kishor’s organization, said: âWe knew he and our entire organization were under surveillance, but we hardly realized that the phone had been hacked for so long. the DMK campaign, our campaign plan was leaked many times and finally a time came when Prashant and all of us stopped using laptop or WhatsApp and through verbal communications designed the whole campaign to over the last few months of the polls. “
Besides Mr Kishor, Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi, Union Ministers Prahlad Patel and Ashwini Vaishnaw, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavas and 40 journalists are among the hundreds of Indian phone numbers on a list selected for be monitored by clients of NSO Group, an Israeli company.
Pegasus spyware secretly unlocks the contents of a target’s mobile phone and turns it into a listening device. NSO says it is licensing the tool exclusively to government agencies to fight terrorism.
The government has strongly denied any surveillance on its part, calling the allegations “exaggerated” and “sensational”.
IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told Lok Sabha that with several checks and balances in place, “any kind of illegal surveillance” by unauthorized persons was not possible in India.