Can’t Blame Russia or China for ‘Pegasus’ Worldwide Spying on Smartphones
July 19, 2021 (EIRNS)—The whistleblower the NSA fears most, Edward Snowden, today called for the banning, across the globe, of the “international spyware trade—a business that should not exist.” In an interview today with Britain’s Guardian, Snowden was framing the revelations of a long investigation by journalists of the worldwide hacking of personal phones, for hire, by the Israel-based cyberwar company called NSO Group Technologies, which hacks into phones of which its clients request surveillance, and embeds spyware in them. The investigation into NSO Group is known as the “Pegasus project,” after the NSO spyware Pegasus. Snowden declared in a tweet: “Stop what you’re doing and read this. This leak is going to be the story of the year.”
In a high irony, the revelations of some aspects of this investigation, in the Guardian and the Washington Post, appeared on the same day that “a senior U.S. official” was anonymously but officially quoted as saying: “Today, in coordination with our allies, the Biden administration is:
Exposing the P.R.C.’s use of criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally, including for their own personal profit. ... As detailed in public charging documents unsealed in October 2018 and July and September 2020, hackers with a history of working for the P.R.C. Ministry of State Security (MSS) have engaged in ransomware attacks, cyber enabled extortion, crypto-jacking, and rank theft from victims around the world, all for financial gain.”
The Biden White House later released a statement saying the United States “reserves the right to take unilateral action” although wanting to rope in Europeans. And China of course responded that it would retaliate.
The hypocrisy—and futility—of these confrontations blazes out in the exposure of the NSO Group. While it claims to surveil “criminals and terrorists” for large numbers of unknown clients, clearly many of them government agencies of various countries, the journalists have shown the Pegasus spyware to be working on lists of targeted phone numbers perhaps reaching 50,000. The Guardian and Washington Post report that the research, conducted by Amnesty’s Security Lab, a technical partner on the Pegasus project, have so far identified 37 smartphones that had the Pegasus software secretly implanted and recording their every call, text, search etc. These include political opposition leaders—Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi is named; journalists, two of them assassinated (the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi is one), and their family members; political activists, reportedly one prime minister.
Said Snowden: “It’s like an industry where the only thing they did was create custom variants of Covid to dodge vaccines,” he said. “Their only products are infection vectors. They’re not security products. They’re not providing any kind of protection, any kind of prophylactic. They don’t make vaccines—the only thing they sell is the virus.” He continued: “There are certain industries, certain sectors, from which there is no protection, and that’s why we try to limit the proliferation of these technologies. We don’t allow a commercial market in nuclear weapons.”
The major technologically advanced nations have to stop charging each other with being the worst surveillance state: Come to agreement to ban this.