Amnesty International, the Forensic Architecture and the Citizen Lab recently launched a database documenting attacks against human rights defenders using the spyware Pegasus. According to Amnesty International’s July 3 statement, the interactive platform – ‘Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror’ – illustrates the connection between Pegasus spyware and the real-world harm attorneys, activists and others face as a result.
Among the most insidious online attacks against human rights activists has been NSO Group’s use of Pegasus spyware, which has been used by the company in some of its ‘most sinister campaigns’. It was possible for an attacker to access all information on a phone, including contacts, calls, messages and the camera, officials said. According to Shourideh C. Molavi, Forensic Architecture’s researcher-in-charge, the investigation demonstrates that the digital domain has become the new frontier of human rights violations, a site for state surveillance and intimidation that enables physical violations in real space. A platform available at digitalviolence.org lists the ‘targets’ of the spyware in India, including activists Bela Bhatia and Anand Teltumbde.
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Earlier in 2020, Amnesty and Citizen Lab revealed that spyware was used on nine human rights defenders who were accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. The spyware campaign targeted lawyers and activists Nihalsing B. Rathod, Degree Prasad Chouhan, Yug Mohit Choudhary and Ragini Ahuja, as well as academics Partho Sarothi Ray and P.K. Vijayan, a journalist who prefers to remain anonymous, and a human rights group, Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG), received malicious emails on the group’s official ID, which is accessible by all of its members, including lawyer Shalini Gera. Another JAGLAG member, Isha Khandelwal also received malicious emails on her personal account.