Computer technology has always been touted as a valuable asset in the modern world, so much so that it is said that the next world war may be based on cyberwar. In support of this prediction, there have been reports that several governments around the world are illegally tracking down prominent politicians and journalists using malware from the Israeli NSO group Pegasus.
What is Pegasus Spyware?
Named after the mythical creature, Pegasus spyware – a program used to remotely monitor a target – was created by NSO Group Technologies, based near Tel Aviv. Historically, Pegasus has played an important role in several international incidents, from the capture of a Mexican drug lord to the leaked texts of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on WhatsApp.
He was recently criticized again after a report said thousands of famous people around the world may have been victims of this spyware.
How does Pegasus Spyware work?
Over the years, Pegasus has used various methods to successfully infect a device. Previously, he used a technique called spear phishing, which involves sending a malicious link to the target. As soon as the link was clicked, Pegasus gained access to the device, and within a few hours, the phone data was transferred to the attacker.
However, nowadays, smartphone security has become more reliable; spyware is now based on an improved version of the “contactless attack”. In this case, an attacker can infect the target device without waiting for a response from a potential victim.
Thus, Pegasus no longer has to wait for a link to be clicked, spyware can easily infect the phone with something as simple as a WhatsApp call.
Who is spying?
The creator of Pegasus, NSO Group, works closely with the Israeli government; Obviously, the latter makes the most of the Pegasus’ observation capabilities.
However, other potential clients have not been left out as the company shares technology with a select group of governments around the world. These foreign clients include India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Who is the target?
While it is impossible to accurately gauge the extent to which a government chooses to use Pegasus, this spyware tends to target journalists — primarily those who pose a problem to the government.
One such incident, in which Pegasus was allegedly used by the government, occurred when Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi was killed in 2018.
Who is working to stop Pegasus Spyware?
The nonprofit Forbidden Stories, human rights organization Amnesty International and a global network of 80 journalists from 17 media groups have come together to investigate how governments are using Pegasus to illegally spy on interested people.
The investigation is called Project Pegasus. In his latest report, he revealed that he has access to a database of 50,000 phone numbers belonging to people whose phones can be infected with spyware.
What is the position of the Indian government?
As the reports claimed the Indian government is one of the NSO Group’s foreign clients for Pegasus. A list of potential targets, including the phone numbers of over 40 Indian journalists from various media outlets, was leaked. In addition, forensic experts have already confirmed the Pegasus attack on at least 10 of the listed phone numbers.
The above allegations have been refuted by the Indian government and the NSO group. While the Indian government has assured that “a commitment to free speech as a fundamental right is the cornerstone of India’s democratic system,” the Israeli technology company simply denied that the report had anything to do with it.