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Was Pegasus used to spy on Mauritian politicians, businesses and journalists?

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Mauritius woke up to the news that an Israeli firm accused of supplying spyware to governments has been linked to a list of 50,000 smartphone numbers, including those of activists, journalists, business executives and politicians around the world, according to reports Sunday.

Pegasus is a program that allows the controller (a person who has injected the spyware) access to the infected smartphone’s microphone, camera and one can even gain access to messages, emails, and collect location data too.

Since then, questions are now being raised as to whether the spyware was also used on the island.

Several whistleblowers had warned, prior to the 2019 general elections, that the Israeli spyware could have been introduced in the Mauritian territory. Claims of the presence of an Israeli team in Mauritius to try to skew online content and spy over militants and political opponents had also hit the headlines back then.

The allegations went silent after no substantial evidence could be made public.

Sunday’s revelations raise privacy and rights concerns and reveal the far-reaching extent to which the private Israeli company’s software may be being used by its clients internationally.

The extent of the use of Pegasus was reported by The Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.

The leak was of a list of more than 50,000 smartphone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016, the media outlets said.

The Post said the list was shared with the news organizations by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International. The newspaper said the total number of phones on the list that were actually targeted or surveilled is unknown.

The Washington Post said the numbers on the list are unattributed but the media outlets participating in the project were able to identify more than 1,000 people in more than 50 countries.

How Do You Know If You Have Been Affected?

Pegasus spyware is nearly impossible to detect. As per a report in Financial Times, a phone can be infected with Pegasus just by calling it via WhatsApp. The user doesn’t even have to pick up the call and the phone will still get infected. You can also send it via email and SMS.

Pegasus has some anti-forensic and self-destruct features. This makes it difficult to detect. Even if it is uninstalled later, it doesn’t leave any traces and there is no way to tell whether the device was affected.

WhatsApp users who had the Android version prior to 2.19.134 seem to have been affected by Pegasus.

Your phone does not show any lags or visible signs when it has been infected by Pegasus.

Since WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, it has also come to light that the Facebook-owned messaging platform has information about the affected users although it hasn’t confirmed exactly how many users have been affected.

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