If you haven’t already heard of “Pegasus” you will be hearing a lot about it soon.
Pegasus, a spyware created by an Israeli company Pegasus iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones and cameras.
According to the BBC:
Rights activists, journalists and lawyers around the world have been targeted with phone malware sold to authoritarian governments by an Israeli surveillance firm, media reports say.
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They are on a list of some 50,000 phone numbers of people believed to be of interest to clients of the company, NSO Group, leaked to major news outlets.
It was not clear where the list came from – or how many phones had actually been hacked.
NSO denies any wrongdoing.
It says the software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists and is made available only to military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies from countries with good human rights records.
Pegasus spyware reportedly hacked thousands of iPhones worldwide. Here’s what to knowhttps://t.co/HMqPaTeKkf
— TIME (@TIME) July 21, 2021
#Pegasus: Revelations about the widespread use of software to spy on journalists, human rights defenders & others are extremely alarming. See statement by @UNHumanRights Chief @mbachelet: https://t.co/v6moMj4v6W pic.twitter.com/vyRxLX4jyq
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) July 19, 2021
Although Pegasus was ostensibly created to spy on terrorists, the spyware has apparently been found in phones all over the world.
According to Slate:
Since 2016, NSO has faced multiple accusations that Pegasus is being used to target journalists and activists around the world. These include Mexican journalist Rafael Cabrera, Citizen Lab’s own reporters, and the family of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, among others.
The most recent addition to this list of Pegasus’ targets is actually 50,000 additions: reporting consortium The Pegasus Project released a report on Sunday that found a list of over 50,000 phone numbers that they believe were identified as “people of interest” by clients of NSO.
Ostensibly, Pegasus is supposed to be used only to “investigate terrorism and crime” and “leaves no traces whatsoever,” on the hacked device, which makes it nearly impossible to detect once installed. However, a Forensic Methodology Report by Amnesty International finds that neither statement is true. The report uncovers “widespread, persistent and ongoing unlawful surveillance and human rights abuses” that NSO’s spyware perpetrated on human rights activists, journalists, academics, and government officials across the globe.
It was not clear how many of the devices on the list had actually been targeted, but forensic analysis of 37 of the phones showed there had been “attempted and successful” hacks, the Washington Post reported.
This included people close to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October 2018 while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. His body was then dismembered.
The investigation found that spyware was installed on his fiancée’s phone days after his murder, and that his wife’s phone was targeted with spyware between September 2017 and April 2018.
Unless you understand coding, it is almost impossible to detect if Pegasus is on your phone.
Dan Bongino explained it like this, on Fox News:
The ramifications for Pegasus are severe. If this is right, and this tool can be loaded onto your phone, to listen, to geolocate you, to watch you, to read your texts, to read your encrypted texts, to listen to your voicemails, to watch your Facebook posting, to watch all of your posting in live time, anything you do on your phone. Can you imagine the danger here? One of the most awesome powers in the world – the ability in live time to locate and track people, and hear everything they’re doing. You imagine the potential for media blackmail, the descent into totalitarianism, how quickly it could happen if this tool is abused? And according to The Guardian’s reporting, it appears they believe it has been.
We can’t say we didn’t see this coming.
Yet, most of us will not give up our phones.
Since the entire world has chosen convenience over security, how can we be surprised when we give up liberty in the process?