AP House Committee on Pegasus submits interim report on ‘data theft’


Amaravati, 20 September (PTI): It was supposed to investigate “the purchase and illicit use of Pegasus spyware by the previous government of Chandrababu Naidu,” but the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly Committee did not mention the issue in its interim report Tuesday.

Instead, the committee concluded that “during the period from November 30, 2018 to March 31, 2019, there appeared to have been an unauthorized and improper transfer of large amounts of sensitive data from the government data center to unknown external servers.”

The seven-member committee, headed by Tirupati MLA Bhumana Karunakar Reddy, presented only two copies of the report to the assembly.

Karunakar Reddy said a “deeper investigation” into the issue was needed and a final report would be presented after that.

However, parts of the interim report were circulating on WhatsApp.

“The committee found that a large volume of data from 18 State Data Center (SDC) servers hosting PSS (Praja Saadhikara Survey) data was transferred to multiple external servers during the period and that there was no legitimate purpose or gave reason to transmit such data to these external IP addresses of Google LLC. Google was not able to identify the users of these IP addresses,” the interim report said.

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The committee was informed that the AP Computer Security Operations Center had been monitoring the servers and network devices at the SDC.

Police intelligence conducted a detailed analysis, reviewed the investigation logs and issued a preliminary report on their findings.

In its response to the committee’s request, Google said the IP addresses provided belonged to it and were not associated with any specific user.

On March 21 of this year, the AP Legislative Assembly voted to form the House Committee to investigate the purchase and illegal use of Pegasus spyware by the previous Chandrababu Naidu government, following allegations by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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Legislative Affairs Minister Buggana Rajendranath had earlier made a motion in the Pegasus Assembly that said Mamata Banerjee’s statement indicated that the government of Chandrababu spyware technology “either officially or unofficially”.

“It is clear that the Chandrababu regime has acquired such technology to hack individuals’ phones and other devices to eavesdrop on conversations and also track the activities live through spyware. Of course, their targets were political leaders, especially the leader of the opposition, industrialists, film personalities and even wives and husbands,” Buggana had said on the occasion.

The House Committee was formally constituted on March 25, chaired by Bhumana Karunakar Reddy, with five members affiliated with the YSR Congress and a rebellious TDP MLA sailing with the ruling party.

Speaking to reporters after the interim report was filed in the House of Representatives, committee member Abbayya Chowdary claimed that 14TB of data was stolen and sent to an app called Seva Mitra during the previous Chandrababu regime.

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Using the data, the TDP attempted to remove countless names (of YSRC supporters) from the electoral roll, he claimed.

“It happened when Chandrababu’s son Lokesh was Minister of Information Technology. We will not abandon him,” added Chowdary.

Public Finance Committee Chair Payyavula Kesav dismissed the YSRC claim and questioned whether the Electoral Commission would remove names from the electoral roll if the TDP requested it.

“They’re just trying to make something out of nothing. The house committee was supposed to be on Pegasus, but no indication was given, not even as a suspicion,” Kesav pointed out.

It was the YSRC that stole the public records and went through households on behalf of a government program, he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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