The Israel espionage company NSO Group’s Pegasus program is used by authorities worldwide to spyware on opposition figures and media, according to a data leak. More than 50,000 contact information affected by the Pegasus malware was obtained by the French media non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.
Hundreds of top executives, educators, unions, and public officials numerous workers of Non-Governmental Organizations have been designated as subjects of NSO’s technology.
It’s difficult to know how many smartphones were infected without a detailed audit of each contact number mentioned. However, the Pegasus research revealed that half of the listed phones, which were about 37 out of 67, were infected, implying possibly thousands of victims.
Despite how many devices were contaminated, government agencies’ determination stated that this was essential to keep tabs on citizens, including hundreds of opposition figures, serves as a warning to which socialist states may form protests against their regime and intrude on democratic rights.
Pegasus program, according to the Guardian, can monitor any data saved on a device, including messages, emails, and photos, and protected data and contact lists. It may even gain access to the victim’s GPS and use a mobile phone speaker to record the target’s chats.
Given these skills, it’s possible that Pegasus’ GPS monitoring capabilities aided the killing of Mexican reporter Cecilio Pineda Birto in 2017. Pineda was assassinated by four men in Altamirano, Mexico, weeks after one of NSO’s Mexican clients added him to the list.
As a result of these attacks, NSO can affect aimed gadgets without the victim’s knowledge. These methods make use of “zero-day” methods, such as focusing on the flaws in a phone’s operating system that the creator may not even be aware of.
In 2019, WhatsApp disclosed that NSO was able to infect 1,400 devices that enabled Pegasus to affect the handset through a phone call, whether the victim replied or not.
The organization has also been investigating flaws in Apple’s iMessage program. Claudio Guarnieri, head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab, was able to detect Pegasus infections on Apple products just last month, despite Apple’s latest security upgrades.
The ramifications of the widespread use of this software are clear: NSO allows governments to eavesdrop on journalists and political dissidents without fear of retaliation.
Per the NSO, it only works with confirmed authorized organizations in 40 unidentified countries, and it performs thorough human rights screening of its customers. The program is ostensibly exclusively used to track down high-profile lawbreakers.