PEGASUS: A MENTAL HEALTH WARNING
What is Pegasus? How does it hamper our privacy? What could be the impact of a data leak on Mental Health? And what could be the way forward to deal with spyware? We will discuss such questions in this article.
Pegasus is spyware which is developed by an Israeli firm NSO that can be secretly installed on anyone’s mobile phones without knowledge. It was developed so that government agencies can spy on crime and terrorism that means it was developed for a good cause but now misuse of this spyware is seen all around the world. The Pegasus hacking scandal has shaken the tech world with high-profile people including politicians, journalists, and activists with attacks on their respective devices. This software is “extremely advanced and dangerous. It is capable of infecting a mobile phone/device without any interaction with the owner itself called a zero-click attack. It can infect a device secretly without the person’s engagement or knowledge. This spyware requires your mobile number only to access devices fully. This scam is very dangerous and such levels of spies have never been witnessed anywhere in the world. The most important thing to notice is that we cannot do anything at the individual level which is totally a helpless situation the spyware just gave you a call and if you don’t even receive it still it is going to be installed on devices. It can access your Whatsapp, Facebook, passwords, account details, etc.
In India, the Right to Privacy is one of the Fundamental Rights of our Constitution which is violated by such data leak. Our national security is at stake because of such issues. The abuse lies in the practicality of illegal deprivation of human rights, especially the right to privacy. But there is a limitation to it two Laws of surveillance in India The Telegraphy Act, 1885, and The Information Technology Act, 2000 under both these laws only the government (under certain Circumstances) is permitted to conduct surveillance and not the private sectors. So such Spywares are totally prohibited and are illegal in India.
The impact of data leaks is immense on Mental health. It creates a scenario of Distrust among the masses we as Indians cast our votes to the representatives with the belief that our Fundamental Rights should not be violated but such attacks create feelings of mistrust among common people. Case Reports stated that victims of data leaks go through emotional and psychological issues also a large number of patients report distress. The psychological consequences of such cyber-attacks could be disastrous especially for ones who are already suffering from some kind of mental illness. Even the normal population experiences Anxiety, Chaos in the country from parliament to common masses, Feeling of Helplessness, Tension, Depression, etc.
The leaked spyware data was first accessed by the French Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, They reported that many targets have been attacked and many are on the list of future attacks. Important contact details from the Prime Minister’s Office and NITI Aayog were also found in the leaked data. Other high-profiled people like Naresh Goyal, Prashant Ruia, Officials of Adani, and Reliance are also in the Pegasus List attack. French President Emmanuel Macron changes his phone after the new attack. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi also reveal that the spyware attack was done on this phone. The situation is quite alarming and needs to be addressed soon
What could be a possible solution to deal with such cyber-attacks? The big tech firms like Apple, Microsoft, and Google should make secure software that does not allow entry of such spyware. Investigations have been started in many countries to look into this matter. Senior journalists N. Ram, Sashi Kumar move Supreme Court for probe into Pegasus snooping allegations Also the West Bengal government forms commission to Investigate Pegasus Spyware issue. One thing that could be done at the individual level is that if we are noticing that the storage capacity of our phones is consuming at a rapid rate or the battery is going too fast we can expect that this spyware is installed. It is an alarming situation for all sectors be it Political, Social, Psychological, Economical. So Political intervention, Psychological assessment, and Technological advancement are the need of the hour.