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Israel’s Pegasus: Is your phone a ‘24-hour surveillance device’?

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Between June 2020 and February 2021, the iPhones of nine Bahraini activists – including two dissidents exiled in London and three members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – were hacked using the Pegasus spyware that was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-surveillance firm regulated by Israel’s defence ministry.

The hackings were revealed in a new report from Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which has studied Pegasus extensively along with related nefarious modern phenomena.

As the Guardian notes, Pegasus is “perhaps the most powerful piece of spyware ever developed” and can turn a mobile phone into a “24-hour surveillance device” – harvesting messages, passwords, photos, internet searches, and other data and seizing control of the camera and microphone.

This can all be done via “zero-click” technology, meaning that one does not have to click on a compromised link or do anything else for one’s phone to become infected.

As if Bahraini human rights campaigners didn’t already have enough on their plates in a torture-happy kingdom before, you know, the full obliteration of the right to privacy.

And yet the Citizen Lab report is merely the latest episode in the dystopian science fiction thriller that we are presently inhabiting on earth.

In July, the Pegasus Project – a consortium of 17 media outlets working with Amnesty International and the Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories – revealed a leaked list of more than 50,000 smartphone numbers from across the world. The majority of the numbers were concentrated in countries known to have been clients of NSO, suggesting that the list was a compilation of potential surveillance targets.

The Washington Post, one of the affiliated outlets, explained that 37 of the listed phones had thus far been confirmed as targets of attempted or successful hacking by Pegasus spyware. Among the phones’ owners were journalists, activists, and “the two women closest to Saudi columnist” Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by agents of the Saudi state on October 2,........

© Al Jazeera

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