On the internet, it is a common fuss, Pegasus is Spyware Actually! A worldwide investigation into the leaked data of phone records has discovered that more than 50,000 numbers were targeted through Israel-made surveillance software by its client governments in different countries which are hostile towards journalists, activists, and political opponents. The data leak contains phone numbers selected by government clients of NSO Group for spying from 2015 onward; the time and date of selecting a number for surveillance, is also part of the record. A Paris-based non-profit journalism organization and Amnesty International primarily had access to the list that it later shared with 16 media organizations. More than 80 journalists worldwide worked together over this investigation entitled the Pegasus Project.
Pegasus is a spyware virus developed by the Israeli cyber arms firm NSO Group that can be stealthily installed on mobile phones running most versions of iOS and Android. The Project Pegasus revelations suggest that the current Pegasus software can exploit all recent iOS versions up to iOS 14.6. as of 2016.
The spyware is named after the mythological winged horse Pegasus. It is a Trojan horse that can be sent “flying through the air” to infect smart devices.
Capability of Pegasus
Pegasus has the capability of reading text messages, tracking calls, collecting passwords, location tracking, accessing the target device’s microphone and camera, and collecting information from apps.
Francisco Partners owns NSO
NSO Group was formerly owned by American private equity firm Francisco Partners, but it was bought back by its founders in 2019. The company states that it provides “authorized governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime.
Human Rights Approach
NSO Group has willfully published partial parts of contracts that require customers to use its products only for criminal and national security investigations and has stated that it has an industry-leading approach to human rights.
Pegasus Discovered in 2018
Pegasus came to light in August 2018 after a failed installation attempt on the iPhone of a human rights activist (yet anonymous) led to an investigation revealing details about the spyware, its abilities, and the security vulnerabilities it misused. It was called the “most sophisticated” smartphone attack ever and manifests the first time that a malicious remote exploit using breakout to gain unlimited access to an iPhone had been perceived.
The Gulf States Purchased Pegasus
According to intelligence obtained by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, NSO Group sold Pegasus spyware software for hundreds of millions of US dollars to the United Arab Emirates and the other Gulf States, for surveillance of anti-regime activists, journalists, and political leaders from opposing nations, with reassurance and mediation by the Israeli government.
Based on the geographical assembling of the numbers on the leaked list, reporters working on Pegasus Project identified potential NSO Group clients from more than 10 countries: Mexico, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain, Morocco, Rwanda, and Togo.
In-depth Analysis by Human
In July 2021, pervasive media handling part of the Project Pegasus revelations along with an in-depth analysis by human rights group Amnesty International revealed that Pegasus was still being widely used against high-profile targets. It showed that Pegasus was able to infect all modern iOS versions up to the latest releases.