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Israel spyware used to plant evidence on jailed India activists

February 11, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Vital evidence used against a group of Indian activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government was planted on a laptop before being seized by police, according to a new forensics report.

One of the 16 people accused was Rona Wilson who is said to have called on a Maoist insurgent group to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, based on investigations by the US digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting.

The report claims that an unidentified attacker used malware to infiltrate a laptop belonging to Wilson and managed to upload ten incriminating letters. Nine people who offered to assist the activists were also sent malware by NetWire software, while three had been targeted with Pegasus software, which is owned by the Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group and is only sold to governments.

“This is one of the most serious cases involving evidence tampering that Arsenal has ever encountered,” the report said.

Pegasus is already the subject of controversy with a lawsuit in the US by social media giant Facebook, after it was following revelations that the spyware was gaining access to mobile phone users’ WhatsApp conversations and potentially other forms of personal data.

READ: UAE, Saudi used Israel spyware to hack Al Jazeera journalists’ phones, report reveals

Earlier this month it was also reported that neighbouring Bangladesh purchased Israeli-made surveillance equipment in 2018 that could be used to hack people’s mobile phones. The equipment was purchased despite Bangladesh not having diplomatic ties to Israel and the deal was made via a Bangkok-based middleman and Bangladeshi military intelligence officers who were received training by Israeli intelligence experts in Hungary.

According to the Israeli site 972mag, Israel has been exporting arms and spying equipment to the world’s most repressive governments over the past few decades, although Israel doesn’t release official information about its arms dealings. “This list includes apartheid South Africa, the military Junta in Argentina, the Serbian army during the Bosnian genocide, and Rwanda in the years leading up to the genocide in the country,” the article adds.

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