An international consortium of journalists has revealed that police and intelligence agencies have spied and are spying on the smartphones of politicians, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. We link here to the German newspaper Zeit and the association Forbidden Stories. Furthermore, we refer to the detailed forensic analysis of the surveillance software used at Amnesty International.
The research was able to be taken up because a list of 50,000 phone numbers monitored by NSO Group was leaked to Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories. So there was probably another whistleblower with a conscience.
As Zeit writes, the monitoring of people is carried out using software called Pegasus from the Israeli provider NSO Group. If this software is installed on a smartphone, be it iOS or Android based, everything can be done: Record phone calls, activate camera, decrypt messages, read geographic location, etc. NSO Group is valued at 1.5 billion and sells the software all over the world. Since the program is classified as a cyberweapon due to its power, permission from the Israeli Ministry of Defense is always required for export. The ministry will comment on the case on Monday.
These most recent discoveries indicate NSO Group’s customers are currently able to remotely compromise all recent iPhone models and versions of iOS.
According to the extensive article, Pegasus is also used in the EU, among others against people in Hungary, Belgium and France.
Amnesty International’s detailed analysis report is also particularly interesting: although NSO Group promises to infiltrate a smartphone without evidence, Amnesty’s lab was able to prove exactly when the program is active as well as when it was, even after it was deleted. Remarkably, nowadays it is no longer necessary to trick the user: in the past, it was necessary to click on a link in an email or message, which then led to the download of the malware, but now it is enough to leave the phone switched on. If the phone number is known, the monitoring software can be installed on any iPhone in the world without any user intervention. Apple has been informed about the circumstance, but has not yet issued a statement.