A leak of phone data suggests human rights lawyers, activists and dissidents across the globe were selected as possible candidates for invasive surveillance through their phones.
Their mobile phone numbers appeared in leaked records, indicating they were selected prior to possible surveillance targeting by governmental clients of the Israeli company NSO Group, which developed the Pegasus spyware.
NSO has repeatedly said Pegasus, which can access all data on a target’s device as well as turn it into an audio or video recorder, is meant for use only against terrorists and serious criminals.
The selection of activists, dissidents and journalists by NSO clients paints a very different picture, though one that campaigners will say was grimly predictable given the tool has been sold to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.
Pegasus spyware is capable of bypassing your phone’s security and gaining complete access to your device — including emails, messages, GPS location, photos, video, and your phone’s microphone. Encryption is no use, because Pegasus sees what you see.
Nothing you do on your phone is private. That includes conversations: Eric Snowden revealed in 2013 that the Echelon program listens in to all phone calls worldwide, waiting for certain trigger words. Now we also find that if you disagree with your government, your phone could become a full-on spy station.
Congress should pass a law immediately banning the sale of Pegasus software in the US, or by any US-based entity, private or public. However, I don’t think they will do it.
Too many powerful interests, both left and right, wanting that Ring of Power, certain that they would use it for the Good. …
I have to admit that I think it’s more likely than not that the US Government does something like this. We know it has the capability. If it doesn’t do it now as part of “protecting” America from “domestic terrorists,” it soon will.
I was just having lunch with a journalist visiting from another EU country. He said that a decade ago, a close friend who was at the time a very senior intelligence official in his country, warned him not to ever get a smartphone. Ever. He said if you have a smartphone, and do business on it, you should assume it has been compromised.
UPDATE from the Daily Mail:
Emmanuel Macron’s phone number was among potential targets of a huge international spying operation, it was revealed last night.
The French president is among 50,000 politicians, journalists and human rights activists around the world said to have been identified as ‘people of interest’ by clients of Israeli firm NSO, developer of a surveillance system called Pegasus. …
Other leaders on the list that emerged include South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. President Imran Khan of Pakistan was also among potential targets …
hat-tip Stephen Neil