Andhra Pradesh bought gadget from Israel to snoop on WhatsApp chats

Gadget can’t monitor WhatsApp calls.

Hyderabad: The Intelligence wing of the Andhra Pradesh police, which has been accused of tapping the phones of leaders of the YSR Congress, has stepped up its Intelligence gathering another notch ahead of the elections.

If highly placed sources are to be believed, the AP Intelligence wing has purchased a device that enables it to monitor WhatsApp chats and downloads of anyone whom they wish to spy upon. This is in addition to the regular phone tapping that state Intelligence agencies routinely resort to, particularly before elections.

The device whose purchase has been described as “unauthorised” is said to have been bought from Israel a few months ago and was part of “revamping” the state Intelligence wing.

Well informed sources within the AP police disclosed to Deccan Chronicle that some key officials of the state Intelligence wing had travelled to Israel on more than two occasions during the last two years. Details of these visits were kept strictly under wraps.

Both Israel and Russia have such technologies, that are available in the grey market, and some companies that manufacture the device have made presentations to Intelligence agencies from different parts of the world that visit Israel for conferences or meetings on policing. The US also has the technology, but it is impossible for anyone to just buy it off the shelf.

Sources said that this “off the air” surveillance of WhatsApp chats from phones is just like any other electronic gadget and easily fits into a backpack. The device, it is believed, comes with software that can break through the WhatsApp encryption and access chats, downloads, and even deleted chats of subscribers.

The device cannot, however, monitor WhatsApp calls. This is something politicians are relying on this election season in order to keep their deals and conversations top secret.

It is also unclear if the device can work with the latest version of WhatsApp.

The unofficial deal between the AP Intelligence wing and the Israeli firm is believed to have been struck at about Rs 5 crore.

The components of the device were reportedly disassembled when it was brought into the country and then reassembled once it arrived here, sources said.

Israeli and Russian companies prefer to deal with the Intelligence agencies of countries as money is never an issue.

“There is no accounting of funds spent by any Intelligence agency. It could run into several crores of rupees every year. Likewise, AP Intelligence too has been procuring quite a few gadgets of late,” one official said.

Another senior police official said that though it is common for any Intelligence wing to step up political intelligence gathering, especially before elections, the AP Intelligence wing has gone one step ahead by procuring this special device to monitor WhatsApp chats of political rivals of the ruling party.

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