The spy program Pegasus, linked to the Israeli company NSO, infected 50,000 cell phones of journalists, activists and politicians around the world, a tool that allows those responsible not only to remotely access an infected computer but also control it and obtain personal information from its owner.
As revealed by the investigation carried out by the media consortium Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, with evidence obtained from a forensic analysis of the phones themselves, 50,000 phones around the world could be targeted by Pegasus spyware, from the Israeli company NSO .
Avast Mobile Threat Analyst Jakub Vavra explains in a statement that Pegasus is a remote access tool (RAT) with spyware capabilities, that is, a tool with which you can remotely monitor a person’s phone and access items such as the camera or microphone, or perform actions such as screenshots or the recording of the pulsations.
The spyware is installed when the user clicks on a link from their phone, although sometimes it can be installed without the link, according to research. With it, those responsible are able to extract data from popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Viber, as well as email and browser services.
Facebook denounced NSO last year, a company it accuses of infecting a network of servers in the United States in 2019 to hack hundreds of smartphones and spy on some 1,4,000 targets through its WhatsApp messaging service.
This software is used as a “very selective” tool for surveillance purposes. Photo: AFP
The analyst points out that “it is used as a very selective tool”, since this software “is used by only a few individuals, apparently for surveillance purposes”. It is common for other spyware to spread widely to harvest masses of user data.
“The minimal spread of spyware does not make it less dangerous, for each individual who is under surveillance the scope of the damage to privacy is certainly very high,” says Vavra. A note that is in line with what was expressed by the head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, who ensures that the software is used to “commit horrific human rights abuses around the world“.
The Washington Post and other media have not been able to find out what exactly was the goal of the list of 50,000 names. They also don’t know who created the list and how many of the phones were targeted.
The Israeli firm refuses to reveal the identity of its clients. Photo: AFP
At the moment, they have been able to confirm that 37 were infiltrated, even for just a few seconds.
Speaking to The Washington Post, NSO Group refused to identify the governments to which it has sold the spyware.
Pegasus first made the headlines of the media in 2016, when the prestigious Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto discovered vulnerabilities in the iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system.
Later, in 2019, 1,400 people, including several Catalan politicians, were victims of spying by Pegasus, which took advantage of a WhatsApp vulnerability to infiltrate phones.
With information from agencies.