Pegasus: After the revelations of espionage cases using the Pegasus program, Edward Snowden granted an interview, on Monday (19), to the British newspaper The Guardian, in which he asked for a ban on the international spyware trade.
The former US National Security Agency (NSA) spy warns that if the ban on spyware trading does not happen, no cell phone will be protected from state-sponsored hackers.
The scale of the scandal, which could involve around 50,000 targets, including heads of government, ministers, diplomats, military officials and journalists, recalls the NSA’s global espionage case in 2013, revealed by Snowden through a data leak.
Understand the espionage scandal
Last Sunday, a journalistic investigation by a consortium of media organizations into the NSO Group revealed a leaked data set of 50,000 phone numbers.
The information was captured by the Pegasus spyware, sold by the NSO to governments, which is capable of secretly infecting a cell phone. The program can be used to extract emails, texts, contact books, location data, photos and videos, in addition to activating the microphone and camera remotely without the user noticing.
Snowden says the consortium’s findings illustrate how commercial malware has made it possible for repressive regimes to put many more people under the most invasive types of surveillance.
Traditional law enforcement operations of tapping a suspect’s phone involve actions such as “breaking into someone’s house, or going to their car or office,” explains the former spy. “And we’d like to think that probably [law enforcement] will get a warrant.”
In the case of commercial spyware, the procedure is economical and can be performed against a larger number of people. Snowden comments that “if they can do the same thing from a distance, with little cost and no risk, they start doing it all the time, against everyone who is of interest, even marginal.”
“When we’re talking about something like an iPhone, they’re running the same software all over the world. So if they find a way to hack an iPhone, they find a way to hack them all,” he says.