Pegasus Project revelations (2021)

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Date Date of the reveal was July 2021, but it is believed that surveillance tools had been used probably since 2016. [1]
Suspected actor The  Pegasus spyware was created by the Israeli spyware market NSO Group. [2] Nevertheless, the suspected actors are various mostly authoritarian governments, including Hungary. [3]Other suspected NSO customers are governments of Mexico, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, Rwanda and Togo.[4]
Target Known criminals, as well as politicians, lawyers, diplomats, human rights defenders, heads of states and nearly 200 journalists from two dozen countries.[2]
Target systems In this case, iPhones and Android devices,  especially phones were targeted.[5]Nevertheless, the spyware is designed to infiltrate also devices running Blackberry or Symbian.[6]
Method Pegasus spyware is considered one of the most powerful pieces of spyware ever developed. Once it has wormed into the device, it can copy messages, harvest photos, record phone owners calls. [5]Moreover, it could localize the owner of the phone and detect who s/he have met and even switch on microphones and cameras for recording live video and audio. [4]

Interesting is the way how phones were probably infected by the spyware.  The first option is the spear-phishing-text message or e-mail. The second option was placing a WhatsApp call to a target device. Via this phone call, the malicious Pegasus code was possible to instal on the device, even if the target never pick up it or take any action at all (zero-click exploit). [7][5]

Purpose Officially, Pegasus software was used to track criminals and terrorists but in this case, is unclear who a why was targeted.[6]
Result When leaked the list of more than 50,000 phone numbers was selected for surveillance by the customers of the Israeli company NSO Group the consortium of the journalists had been created.  The consortium was led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories, and the human rights group Amnesty International.[8] The goal of this project was the forensic analysis of the case which should result in confirmation or refutation of their assumptions of the size and scope of the surveillance.[9]  In October 2021 was project awarded by Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism. [10]
Aftermath The revelation of the Pegasus project demonstrated that governments worldwide have been exploiting the Israeli NSO Group’s spyware to indulge in widespread snooping on more than 50,000 ‘targets’ of interest. Moreover, it is crucial to mention that in this case we are not speaking about mass surveillance, but about the large-scale targeted surveillance, which is much worse.[11]
Analysed in Scenario 02: Cyber espionage against government departments

Scenario 11: Sale of surveillance tools in defiance of international sanctions

Collected by: ???

  1. Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Paul Lewis, David Pegg, Sam Cutler, Nina Lakhani, Michael Safi,  Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cube-surveillance weapon, The Guardian (18 July 2021)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Laurent Richard, Sandrine Rigaud, Spyware can make your phone your enemy. Journalism is your defence, The Guardian (19 July 2021)
  3. Pegasus Project revelations: MEPs debate government spying, European Parliament (9 Semptember 2021)
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Pegasus Project, About the Project, OCCRP, ( 18 July 2021)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 David Pegg, Sam Cutler, What is Pegasus spyware and how does it hack phones?, The Guardian (18 July 2021)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bhanukiran Gurijala, What is Pegasus? How Surveillance Spyware Invades Phones, Scientific American (9 August 2021)
  7. Stephanie Kirchgaessner, WhatsApp: Israeli firm ‚deeply involved‘ in hacking our users, The Guardian (29 April 2020)
  8. Pegasus Project consortium wins first Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize, Euronews (14. October 2021)
  9. About the Pegasus Project, Forbidden Stories, (2021)
  10. The Pegasus Project awarded the 2021 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, News European Parliament (14. October 2021)
  11. Y. Kiran Chandra, Pegasus aftermath: How to check yourself if you are being spied on, The Federal (24 July 2021)