RAWALPINDI: The federal Ministry of Information Technology has issued a confidential letter to the authorities concerned, advising them not to use WhatsApp for official correspondence since an Israeli spyware stealthily installed on the software was being used to monitor users’ activities, sensitive data and movements.
“Hostile intelligence” agencies can try to gain access to sensitive information stored or communicated through mobile phones, the letter warned.
Pegasus, the spyware, has sent a wave of concerns around the globe as it has already infected mobile devices of millions of WhatsApp users since April. WhatsApp has acknowledged the cyber attack and initiated a lawsuit against the Israeli maker of the software.
According to experts, Pakistani mobile users could be in double jeopardy as the Indian government is also reportedly using the spyware to steal mobile data. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi has even accused the Modi government of working with Israeli spy agencies to snoop into the phones of journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians.
Recently, an Israeli company was sued by Whatsapp/Facebook in the US court of San Francisco for violating both US and California laws as well as the WhatsApp terms of service.
Pegasus was employed recently by 1,400 senior government and military officials in 20 countries, including Pakistan. The software is capable of infecting any mobile phone only by generating a missed call on target WhatsApp number.
The ministry said that in order to minimise the possibility of any infection by Pegasus malware, government officials holding sensitive portfolios and dealing with national security matters should not share any classified information on WhatsApp or any similar application.
The ministry also advised the government officials to discard all mobile phones purchased before May 10 this year.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019