Controversy Surrounding International Spyware

Megan Pociask 
Staff Writer 

Recently NSO, the creator of an Israeli spyware meant to target terrorism, has been gaining international attention. After facing accusations of turning a blind eye and essentially aiding in foreign government oppression, the company has been forced to provide answers.

NSO states that each client is subject to a multitude of vetting processes, including one by the Israeli Defense Ministry. Afterwards, the client is free to do what they wish. However, oftentimes, clients doing what they wish has led to a series of human rights violations. For many, this screening process doesn’t seem to be nearly sufficient enough. 

According to Newsweek, the human rights group, Amnesty International, claims that its staff has been targeted by the software.

Furthermore, NSO Group’s CEO, Shalev Hulio, has been accused of selling their software, Pegasus, for 55 million dollars, to Saudi Arabia only shortly before the country used that software to find and murder journalist, Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi. 

These types of occurrences have led people to ask questions regarding Pegasus’s seeming lack of regulation and their ability to breach the privacy of many individuals, including those not directly intertwined with terrorism.

While most agree that the prevention of terrorism is necessary and helpful, the question remains as to how it could be possible without infringing upon a citizen’s rights to privacy.

For instance, just years ago, when Apple refused to allow the FBI access to the San Bernardino shooter’s cell phone, opinions on who should be allowed access and under what circumstances, were sharply divided. 

However, there is no question regarding how easily Pegasus can install into a user’s phone.

According to CBS News, Pegasus, “allows agents to track the locations and record conversations…” from the user’s encrypted phone. Its malware can be deployed through common apps, like WhatsApp or a downloadable link from a text message. 

While Shaliv Hulio claims that Pegasus has saved “Ten of thousands of people”, it is simultaneously known that during this saving process, those not inherently connected to terrorism or danger, have had their phones hacked by the software to aid in the client’s interests.

Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, explained to CBSN that “This technology is being used by autocratic dictators who can mount global cyber espionage operations simply by purchasing the technology”.

In defense of NSO’s software, Hulio states that so far, there have only been a few cases of Pegasus’ misuse, however, Citizen Lab reports that 27 cases have been found in just Mexico alone. 

Categories: Features

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