Tanim Asjad |
July 23, 2021, 10:19 p.m.
The exhibit was shocking but not surprising. Over the years, political and civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders have expressed concern about wiretapping and data hacking of their communications devices. They also argued that some governments in some countries have gradually acquired sophisticated high-tech tools to monitor their citizens. Scattered evidence was also present, although different governments and competent authorities dismissed such complaints. For example, the phone hacking tools of the Israeli company Cellebrite have also been bought by some countries in the recent past.
A series of exhibits by journalists involved last week in Project Pegasus, organized by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, now make it very clear that large numbers of citizens around the world are no longer immune to intense surveillance. technology-based. Seventeen international media groups, including The Guardian and The Washington Post, have investigated how Pegasus was allegedly used to extract messages and information from the phones of journalists, politicians and activists.
Pegasus is a highly sophisticated and notorious spyware designed and developed by the Israeli cyber-espionage company NSO Group. This group has provided a different version of the tools to the government of at least 50 countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. The Forbidden Stories, a coalition of some prominent news outlets, with the help of TIB and some forensic experts, is checking a series of phones and finally a “leaked list of potential targets for surveillance.” Forensic testing also “confirmed that some of the targets had been successfully spied on by an unidentified agency using the Pegasus software.”
Governments and various law enforcement agencies have purchased and installed spyware on the smartphones of opposition political leaders, critics and journalists targeted to contain any dissent. Nonetheless, in some cases even policymakers, ministers, leaders and officials have also come under sophisticated surveillance and it is not unlikely that spyware may have compromised the phones of many. ‘between them. In this process, any private, confidential and secret recording of the device becomes vulnerable. It also states that any law enforcement agency can target and abuse anyone to exercise power and spread fear among citizens.
Thus, the risk of abuse and misuse of the tool is very high and there is also no reason not to. In the name of ensuring security and curbing the anti-state movement, authoritarian and semi-authoritarian governments, as well as some democratic governments in various countries, are desperate to tighten their grip.
Exposure to Project Pegasus is not a complete escape and there are several limitations. For example, it did not provide any clear picture of the success rate of spying on phones through the tool. He also couldn’t show the consequences of hacking the target people — whether the disguised authorities kidnapped any of them or took legal action.
Nonetheless, this is quite an alarming exposure and a serious threat to journalism and freedom of expression. The installation of Israeli spyware in different countries also indicates that even their secure national data can also be breached and can be accessed by global hackers and intelligence agencies in other countries. Governments in some countries feel comfortable in fully controlling the movements and activities of their citizens with the sophisticated spyware at their disposal. However, they don’t realize or acknowledge that they may also have been compromised and trapped.