Pegasus, the secrets of spyware

Per Chaim Gelfand, vice president of the Israeli Nso group, specializing in digital surveillance technologies, are two hours of incessant questions. To make them is the Pega commission of European Parliamentestablished on March 10 to investigate abuses perpetrated by some European governments through Pegasus spyware sold by the company, and coordinated by the rapporteur Sophie in ‘T Veld, who on 21 June, in the sixth session, interviewed the manager. Low gaze and few complete answers, once because of the trade secret and another to not tell too much about relationships with their customers, governments. The number of these varies, says Gelfand: “In the past there were sixty in forty-five countries, now we are under fifty”.

When asked by the Commission how many of these are EU member states, Gelfand replies: “I don’t have a figure, but more than five. I’ll let you know“. Always according to his words, Nso would have terminated the contract with some of these European countries why they did not guarantee adequate standards, but who they are remains a mystery. Information that should not be secret, some parliamentarians point out, especially if the aim of the governments that use Pegasus is to counter terrorism. Even in this case, however, Nso replies by saying that he cannot provide data or information “because it should be them [i paesi, ndr] to give notice if they want”.

Marketed by the Israeli company Nso Group, it is sold for the purpose of tracking criminals and terrorists, but is used by governments to violate the privacy of activists, dissidents, journalists and foreign officials. In Spain it was found in Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s smartphone

Abuses against journalists, activists and diplomats

Lo Pegasus spyware is malicious software that without the knowledge of the owner of a mobile device (with Android or iPhone operating system) is able to spy on, track and intercept their activities, as well as access and activate parts of the phone such as the microphone or video camera. Those who create software of this type – there are almost twenty companies in addition to Nso, including Italians – do it for provide the tool to government agencies and law enforcement agencies engaged in countering terrorism. Not even from the hearing, however, it was possible to obtain a real number on the concrete cases in which Pegasus actually allowed the capture of a terrorist, or to foil an attack with this matrix. The best known case of its use is what led to the capture of El Chapothe Mexican drug trafficker now in prison in the United States.

On this point Gelfand says he cannot provide estimates because the government agencies against terrorism themselves would never provide data to that effect. The number of violations and abuses against journalists, activists and members of various European governments are instead many, now a fact. In chronological order, the latest known event involving Pegasus is that revealed by a report by the Citizen Lab, a Canadian research institute which in April showed that between 2017 and 2021 more than sixty journalists, activists, the premier spagnolo Pedro Sánchez and the minister of the Difesa María Margarita Robles Fernández have been intercepted through this spyware. The Canadian institute’s assumption is that the Spanish government was behind these interceptions. In yesterday’s session, Vice President Gelfand spoke of “12-13,000 targets on average among all customers”That they would use Pegasus last year. A number different from that revealed by the investigation Pegasus Project, conducted by 17 newspapers and coordinated by Forbidden Stories with technical help from Amnesty Internationalwhich spoke of 50,000 phone numbers being spied on.

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