Pegasus Spyware and NSO Group are making the headlines for the past few days. While most of you might know about Pegasus and a company called NSO Group, for those who don’t, we’ve come up with this article.
In this article, we will tell you about what we know about Pegasus and the NSO Group.
What is Pegasus Spyware?
Pegasus is a piece of spyware of the NSO Group, an Israel-based cyber intelligence company. The company claims that the main feature of the software is that tracing back the user is not possible. So, nobody will be able to trace back to the government using the software.
The development of Pegasus spyware is by a private company for use by government agencies. The spyware infects a smartphone through a text message without letting the source know about it. It infects the phone and then sends back photos, videos, audio, and other data in the phone. It can even access the phone’s cameras and microphones and create recordings.
NSO Group makes Spywares for the governments to do proper surveillance on its citizens. It describes its products as helping “government intelligence and law-enforcement agencies use technology to meet the challenges of encryption” during investigations. But lately, there are many concerns regarding the usage of the Pegasus spyware.
Why Pegasus is in the News?
There are some allegations that Pegasus can hack fully updated smartphones with just a single text message. A group of 17 international news outlets including The Wire is reporting on this matter for the past week. This reporting is the Pegasus Project.
Moreover, the Pegasus Project was led by Paris-based media Forbidden Stories, an organization where journalists work on special coverage of events. In order to find evidence that the hacking has been done by Pegasus, Amnesty International has performed detailed forensics. The study revealed that out of 67 smartphones, 37 tested positive for being targeted by the Pegasus spyware. But still, many details and shreds of evidence are missing.
Who is on the Pegasus list?
Pegasus list has phone numbers and details of around 50,000 people who belong to different parts of the world. Though it is not clear why the list was created in the first place, there is also confusion about who made that list. Also, NSO claims that the list doesn’t belong to their company. The list doesn’t contain information about who created the list and added the numbers. As of now, nobody is sure if the people on the list are under surveillance or not. There is so much confusion with no clear answers.
Reportedly, some high-ranking officials’ phone numbers and details are on the list. It includes the current presidents of France, Iraq, and South Africa as well as the current and some former prime ministers of Pakistan, Egypt, and Morocco, and even the king of Morocco.
What does NSO say about this?
NSO Group’s CEO and co-founder Shalev Hulio is reported to have said that the reports were “concerning,” and their company would further investigate the matter. He argued that the phone numbers that are found to be targeted in the investigation, were not targeted by NSO. He also told that the NSO Group has certain rules and guidelines for the clients. Their policy is to cut off the clients in case they are using the software for purposes that are not a part of the contract.
Moreover, the CEO of the NSO Group is reported to have said that “somebody has to do the dirty work and Pegasus is used to handle literally the worst this planet has to offer.”
Why do the companies develop Pegasus-like software?
According to NSO, the development of Pegasus is for use in counter-terrorism and law enforcement work. The company sells the software only to some government agencies after approval from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. They call their software a necessity and claim that its use is necessary in these trying times.
Also, not just NSO Group, there is a good number of higher-profile companies that are making tools like Pegasus. A myriad of companies is working in the space and coming up with their own spyware. Interestingly, in Israel, a number of cyber intelligence agents are leaving the military to begin a startup. Hence, Israel has become a hub for these kinds of companies.
Who is going to be the target of Pegasus Spyware?
The people who are in a position that could harm government powers are mainly the target for the Pegasus software. These people include journalists, world leaders, bureaucrats, and other influential people. Though you can assume that the common people won’t become a target, we can’t be sure. If the hacker wants to have a broad range of targets, there’s a possibility of your number becoming a target.
Surprisingly, out of the 67 phones that were checked, no number on the list started with +1. The drawback is that they only checked 67 phone numbers out of millions. So, we can assume that the software will not be able to hack the phone numbers of countries like the US, Canada, Jamaica, and some others. Moreover, NSO has also claimed that technically the Pegasus software is not capable of hacking phones with phone numbers starting with +1. Though we cannot be so sure about that.
Moreover, in case you’re a target of the government, you can’t really do anything to protect your data. Most of the time, the government use these kinds of software for easy surveillance. The government uses almost all the resources it has, thus it becomes almost impossible for someone to protect the data. So, data privacy is not a thing anymore, especially in India.