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Recent threat notification messages to MPs deserve further probing

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology should call for an urgent meeting to examine the recent threat notification messages issued to several prominent iPhone users in India to investigate the “potential involvement of state-supported hackers and their motivations”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP John Brittas said in a letter to the chairperson of the panel on Wednesday.

Several Opposition leaders and MPs — including Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, and Congress MPs K.C. Venugopal and Shashi Tharoor — received notifications this week alerting them against an effort to remotely compromise their iPhones by “state-sponsored attackers”.

In his letter, Mr. Brittas said that the panel should examine the “nature and credibility” of the security threat identified by Apple, the extent of “vulnerability of Indian iPhone users to hacking attempts”, the potential involvement of “state-supported hackers and their motivations” and the adequacy of cyber security measures in place to protect the privacy and security of mobile phone users in India.

“This notification is reminiscent of the Pegasus spyware scandal, which targeted voices critical of the ruling dispensation, and is a matter of deep concern for our democracy,” Mr. Brittas wrote. He also sought to remind the panel of the Supreme Court’s observations in the context of the Pegasus episode, where the court said: “The right to privacy is directly infringed when there is surveillance or spying done on an individual, either by the State or by any external agency.”

The panel’s intervention, the MP argued, was “crucial to protect the rights of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution and to uphold the democratic ethos of our nation”. The Hindu

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