Surveillance applications have found used all over the world for different purposes. However, the Pegasus Project is possibly a reminder of an event that when these applications are used for the wrong reasons, there’s a lot at stake.
The Pegasus Project was an investigation that led to a data leak led by 17 media organizations, which include The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Wire, and more.
This included a list of individuals, including human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens who were potentially targeted by authoritarian governments using an application called Pegasus.
This application is created and sold by the Israel-based NSO Group, and it’s usually sold only to governments for the primary purpose of fighting terrorism.
This app is capable of completely surveilling a mobile device, from calls, text spy, to even remotely activating the device’s microphone and accessing photos and emails.
Also, Read: Is Mac as Safe as You Think?
What Did the Leak Reveal?
The leak revealed a list of 50,000 phone numbers that have been selected as potential targets by the NSO Group’s government clients since 2016. Additionally, the data dump also revealed the time and date when some of these numbers were selected and logged into a system.
The list was initially dug up by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media organization, which then shared it with the 17 media organizations. The work on this project was carried out by 80+ journalists over the course of several months.
The data leaked indicated several things –
- The 50,000 numbers and their respective owners were potentially selected as targets by the NSO Group’s clients to surveil at different points, beginning from 2016.
- One thing to note is that while the list indicates the intent to potentially surveil these individuals, it does not indicate that there was an attempt to have Pegasus secretly installed on these devices.
- Based on the forensic sampling of 67 smartphones (those belonging to people who were willing to have their devices submitted for an examination), Amnesty strongly suspected an attack by Pegasus. Of these, 23 were successfully infected by Pegasus, while 14 others showed signs of attempted penetration by the application.
- Of these, 15 were Android devices, and none of these showed signs of an infection. According to this guide on Android spy apps, this can be attributed to the fact that, unlike iOS devices, Android devices require physical access for most spy apps to be installed on them.
- The NSO group sells Pegasus to 60 clients across 40 countries but refused to disclose this client list. However, based on the forensic analysis and the phones that were shown to have the app installed or displayed signs of an attempt, the media organizations identified the following countries – Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and India, among others.
- The NSO Group has stayed firm on its stance that it doesn’t have a database of its customers’ targets. It also stated that the 50,000 number was an exaggeration and that the media partners got the list of countries wrong. It also mentioned that the 50,000 number list was too large for them all to be potential targets of Pegasus.
What Does This Big Reveal Indicate For The Common Person?
Before we try to decode what this big reveal means for the average Joe, it’s important to understand that while Pegasus is a sophisticated program that costs a bomb, the market is flooded with other spy apps that find more use among common people.
They’re used as a means of an employee or child monitoring, and in some cases, also to spy on people.
This is concurrent with a global rise in cybercrime, which has been further exacerbated over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is particularly because a lot of people no longer enjoyed the protections offered by the networks in their respective organizations and had to rely on their home networks when working from home.
Often, this was also the result of employees having to rely on their personal computers and laptops for their work, rather than the better-protected ones at their workplaces.
At the crux of it is a deep-rooted sense of insecurity that comes with the increasing use of technology, which is further augmented by the fact that such technology is readily available today and is quite affordable.
What Can One Do to Protect Themselves From These Dangers Online?
There are several ways in which one can keep themselves from being targeted by surveillance applications like these. Some of these are listed below –
- Use a reliable anti-malware program. These act as a great layer of defense and protect your device from being attacked by any form of malware. They’re regularly improved to keep up with improvements in spyware technology. This guide on how anti-malware programs work can help you understand how they can keep you safe.
- Use an effective antivirus program. These regularly scan your devices to ensure that they’re safe from being infected by any type of virus.
- Always use a VPN when you’re relying on a public WiFi network to get work done. This can go a long way in keeping your devices safe from someone who can potentially use a common network to hack your devices.
The Pegasus Project is possibly the biggest story of our times when it comes to the subject of technological privacy and online safety.
Given that this software has potentially been used to target ordinary civilians, we realize that nobody is truly safe from such invasions unless, of course, they prefer living the old-school way and don’t rely on any gadgets whatsoever.
Realspyapps.com shows how capable such apps are, even if they’re far cheaper and targeted at the common individual.
For all others, taking measures to ensure their safety and privacy online is crucial in today’s day and age, and this reveal has been crucial in furthering this conversation.