“Digital weapon”: expert warns of “monster that has gotten out of control”

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta December 14, 2021
Updated 2021/12/14 at 2:38 PM

Investigations already showed a few months ago that the was developed by the Israeli NSO Group Spyware Pegasus has been misappropriated by several states. The program is sometimes used by authoritarian regimes as a state Trojan to keep an eye on critics.

Spyware Pegasus: “Extremely Powerful Surveillance Tool”

Together with more than 80 other organizations, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for EU sanctions against the NSO Group. There is growing evidence that the company has enabled dozens of authoritarian governments to “monitor and prosecute media workers and human rights defenders,” said Lisa Dittmer, Internet Freedom Officer at RSF. A credible EU human rights policy requires “that the member states take joint measures against such a company instead of prioritizing national security interests,” continued Dittmer.

The journalist Frederik Obermaier also agrees. In an online debate on Thursday, the member International Consortium of Investigative Journalists took a clear position on the Pegasus spyware. According to information from heise online, he rates the software as an “extremely powerful surveillance tool” and a “digital weapon”. Pegasus is “a monster that has gotten out of control” and represents “a threat to freedom of the press and democracy”.

“Encryption is bypassed”

Those who would control the software would have the opportunity to overhear conversations, record their victims’ locations and all the content shown on a smartphone. Even the sophisticated safety nets used by mobile phone developers are of little use here. “Encryption is bypassed,” explains Obermaier.

“With this year’s reform of its export controls, the EU wanted to set new standards for value-based trading with digital surveillance technology. The allegations of the misuse of Pegasus by the Hungarian government, national negotiations such as France’s on agreements to protect their own population and Germany’s adherence to the use of Pegasus show little of this. “

Lisa Dittmer (via Reporters Without Borders)

Victims of the Pegasus spyware have also had their say in the past. They describe impressively how the software is used. The traffic light parties are demanding that there should be “no transfer of surveillance software to repressive regimes”. But that is not enough for Reporters Without Borders. The use of Trojans like these must also play a role on the international political stage.

Sources: Reporters Without Borders; heise online

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