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How "Pegasus" Hacks A Smartphone

Gibrán Aquino, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
NSO Group, photo by Gibrán Aquino

The Spanish government has revealed that smartphones linked to its prime minister and defense minister were hacked in 2021 by powerful “Pegasus” spyware.

This is the latest revelation in a string of scandals involving Israel’s NSO Group, which makes the suite of tools that constitute Pegasus (also known as “Phantom” in the United States).

Previously, Pegasus has been linked to political spying of politicians from the pro-independence government of Catalonia.

Pegasus was developed to help governments track criminal and terrorist activity. The software allows operators to remotely monitor every aspect of a phone – including calls, messages, photos, and video.

But its usage has led to accusations of misuse, with cases coming to light of foreign governments targeting the phones of dissidents, human-rights activists, and journalists.

Many of the revelations are disclosed by Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto that has been investigating unlawful surveillance activities worldwide.

Recently, it reported evidence of “multiple suspected instances of Pegasus spyware infections within official UK networks”, including the prime minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry.

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