Updated: Nov 1, 2021
A social activist plans a people’s struggle against his government. He discusses the plan with his colleagues, prepares a document with a few photos and videos and waits to share with his movement members. But before that the government gets to know all the details. How? Pegasus!
What is Pegasus?
Pegasus is a mobile software. It can enter your mobile phone, without your knowledge and spy your data and activity. So, it can be called a spyware. Let me give you an analogy here.
Just imagine a magician entering your house. He disappears into the wall and watches all what you speak, do, where you go and with whom you are with. He also sends all these information to your enemy. Pegasus software is such a magician.
Let me explain how Pegasus enters your mobile phone, what does it do to you once infected, why its the top most spyware in the world today, who produces and sells it, who bought it and how they are used, and how this was revealed. Fasten your seat belt.
How does a Pegasus spyware enter your phone?
You must have heard about viruses entering your computer or mobile. Either you knowingly or unknowingly click an email link or SMS or the enemy physically handles your computer or mobile and sends the virus. That is history. With Pegasus, just a missed call, an unread SMS or a vulnerable app is enough. It can breakthrough the security loop, install itself and bring your mobile completely under its control.
What can such an infected Pegasus spy do?
It can read all the text messages and emails you send and receive. It can view and download all the photos and videos on your mobile. It can read and download all chats that you have in Facebook or Whatsapp. It can observe your browsing history.
And it doesn’t stop there. Pegasus can turn on your microphone and camera even when do not use your mobile phone. It can record on your screen and around you. It can access your GPS and know your location.
The Guardian newspaper notes that, “If you think your life is a secured life and your mobile phone is only for you, you are making a huge mistake. This will pave way for dictatorial regime, affecting democracy. It can be used to stop or dilute the legitimate struggles of people.”
What are the five reasons why Pegasus is the top most spyware in the world now?
Firstly, as explained before it functions with Zero-Click Technology. It does not involve your action.
Secondly, its existence is almost impossible to detect.
Thirdly, it self destructs once it cannot send any data to the sender within 60 days.
Fourthly, it has complete access. In fact, the spy has more control over your phone than you, because it infects the kernel part of the operating system.
Fifthly, it works on all Operating systems like iOS or Android. Mobile manufacturers have not yet learnt how to prevent such a spyware.
Who produces Pegasus and sells to whom?
The Guardian newspaper reports that the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, incorporated in Israel in 2010, produces and sells to Governments and Government agencies. It has done a detailed investigation into the Governments that bought the spyware and over 50,000 mobile phones that believe to be infected by this spyware. According to The Guardian, the spyware has been planted in the mobile phones of journalists, lawyers, social activists and even heads of Governments.
Edward Snowden on Spyware
“People like the NSO group do not produce or sell vaccines. They sell viruses. From selling to governments it is clear what their purpose is. This is not a technology for the protection of the people. " Edward Snowden, who worked for the NSA in the United States and told the world about its undemocratic nature, told ten years ago that, "Your mobile phone is a spy in your pocket."
“I mentioned earlier that individuals' data can be obtained by anyone for economic and political gain, through mobiles. But what is happening now is beyond that. They bring your mobile phone under their full control. You are not the owner of the mobile phone you paid for. Those who inject this spy become the bosses.”Edward Snowden added.
Why the name, Pegasus?
Pegasus is the name given to the white divine horse in Greek mythology. This Pegasus software has the ability to ‘fly through the air’ and attack the mobile phone. So, the name!
How was the whole game got revealed?
As earlier as 2016, Citizen Lab and Lookout reported that a software named Pegasus tried to access an iPhone belonged to a human right activist named Ahmed Mansoor. In 2020, the Israeli journal, Haaretz, reported that Pegasus had been sold to a few Gulf countries for millions of dollars. In December the same year, Al Jazeera reported that television journalists and social activists were being monitored by Pegasus.
But, in mid July 2021, Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, conducted an in-depth research project entitled Project Pegasus Revelations, which was published to the world. Paris-based Forbidden Stories, a non-profit organisation, has teamed up with Amnesty International released at least 50,000 mobile phone numbers believed to be Pegasus spy software. The research was carried out by 80 journalists from several leading media organisation, such as UK’s The Guardian, USA’s The Washington Post and India’s The Wire.
The NSO Group, however, categorically denies the allegations.
What does the NSO group company say?
“ Our company is a technology company. The technology we manufacture is designed to be used to identify terrorists, prevent gun violence and reduce incidents such as homicide and robbery. It is our policy that it should contribute to the secure well-being of the general public. Although many people think we are wrong, we're committed to the principle of inventing technologies for the safety of the people.”
“ But we are carefully examine the claim that our technology is being misused. We will take appropriate action based on the results of the research,” the NSO group company spokesman told The Guardian.
Privacy and Security of Individuals are threat now, by spyware like Pegasus. However, technocrats encourage everyone to update latest versions of OS of their mobile phone, which, to some extent, could make you safer. They also suggest not to download unnecessary apps in to one’s phone. However, Spyware like Pegasus is a threat to personal safety and democracy.