The Global Impact of Digital Predators
By Michael Megarit
Pegasus, created by Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group, is an advanced piece of spyware. Classified as malware, Pegasus infiltrates smartphones (both iOS and Android) covertly to gain access to personal information stored there – effectively turning smartphones into surveillance devices for its operators. Aptly named after the mythological winged horse Pegasus, it flies unseen through digital defenses like its namesake does unimpeded in the sky.
Pegasus stands out from other types of spyware by its unique ability to execute zero-click attacks without needing action from its victims – for instance clicking malicious links or entering credentials into any websites. Pegasus exploits unknown vulnerabilities known as zero-day exploits within mobile device operating systems – exploits that software creators were not aware existed and thus no patches had been issued yet for protection purposes – this makes Pegasus particularly hard to detect or protect against.
Once Pegasus has gained entry to a device, it has the capacity to access an abundance of data and functions. It can read user emails and messages, listen to calls, capture screenshots, access camera/mic/camera functionality on device as well as gather app-related info from apps such as WhatsApp/Signal; most alarmingly though it can monitor encrypted communications via these services by either intercepting them before they are encrypted on sending device or decrypting after arrival – monitoring encrypted conversations like WhatsApp/Signal in real-time before/decrypting process occurs or before/decrypted when arriving on receiving device!
Pegasus’ capabilities are far-reaching: it can track user locations, extract personal information from them and monitor every keystroke made on an infected device. Furthermore, its deployment can often occur undetected allowing operators to carry out long-term surveillance without detection; data harvested by Pegasus could provide complete insights into its targets’ personal, professional and social lives; potentially leading to serious privacy breaches and security risks.
Pegasus is at the center of much debate due to its ethical and legal implications. While NSO Group asserts that Pegasus was designed to assist governments combatting terrorism and crime, reports of its deployment against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, political opponents, sparking international discussions around privacy, surveillance, civil liberties and surveillance rights. Pegasus has even been linked with instances of political manipulation and suppression making it more than a tool of law enforcement but also an attack weapon used against democratic processes and human rights.
Governmental Use and Abuse of Powerful Spyware
Pegasus spyware is distributed and sold by NSO Group to government agencies worldwide. According to them, its intended use is to fight terrorism and serious crime such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and child exploitation networks. They reportedly only sell this spyware to responsible governments and law enforcement agencies as a tool against such security issues.
Investigations by organizations such as Amnesty International, Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and journalistic efforts coordinated by Forbidden Stories have revealed that Pegasus may have been used for purposes other than national security or criminal investigations. Reports allege that some government clients misused Pegasus to target:
- Human Rights Activists and Dissidents
- Journalists and Media Personnel
- Lawyers and Legal Advisers
- Opposition Politicians
- Business Executives
- Government officials from foreign countries
Recent incidents suggest that Pegasus is being used not solely to investigate criminal activities; rather, it has also been employed for political surveillance, suppression of dissent, and to gain unfair advantages by spying on individuals considered threats or enemies by certain state actors – rather than solely being used to prevent serious crime and investigate serious offenses. Such usage raises serious human rights, privacy, and potential abuse issues related to state surveillance technologies.