The Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group revealed that its Pegasus spyware was used by at least five European countries.
NSO Group’s General Counsel Chaim Gelfand admitted that the company had “made mistakes,” but that after the abuses of its software made the headlines it has canceled several contracts.
“We’re trying to do the right thing and that’s more than other companies working in the industry,” Gelfand told members of the PEGA committee. “Every customer we sell to, we do due diligence on in advance in order to assess the rule of law in that country. But working on publicly available information is never going to be enough.”
In April, the Parliament set up a new inquiry committee investigating the use of Pegaus spyware and equivalent surveillance software used to spy of phones belonging to politicians, diplomats, and civil society members. The spyware was used to target several European leaders, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and Spanish political groups, Hungary, and Poland.
The abuse of this kind of solution poses a serious threat to fundamental rights, particularly on the rights to privacy and data protection.
“It comes from the EDPS’ conviction that the use of Pegasus might lead to an unprecedented level of intrusiveness, which threatens the essence of the right to privacy, as the spyware is able to interfere with the most intimate aspects of our daily lives.” states the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).
“Pegasus constitutes a paradigm shift in terms of access to private communications and devices, which is able to affect the very essence of our fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy.”
Privacy advocated and cybersecurity experts demonstrated the use of the Pegasus in surveillance campaigns worldwide targeting journalists, political figures, dissidents, and activists.
The bad news is that the business of digital surveillance is growing in scaring and uncontrolled way. Recently, experts spotted other surveillance malware infecting systems worldwide, such as the HERMIT spyware that was linked to an Italian firm.
If you want to read more info on the Pegasus spyware give a look at a report investigating Pegasus spyware impacts on human rights has been launched by the Council of Europe on the occasion of the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly.
The report was prepared by the Information Society Department with contributions from Tamar Kaldani the former Personal Data Protection Inspector and the State Inspector of Georgia, currently serving as the first Vice-chair of the Consultative Committee of Convention 108 and Zeev Prokopets – an Israeli executive, product designer, software developer and entrepreneur.
“An investigation report released by a global consortium26 revealed that 200 journalists worldwide had been targeted using Pegasus spyware. The Office of the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression also noted the number of victims of attempted spying through Pegasus, including Mexican journalists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders.27 “The numbers vividly show the abuse is widespread, placing journalists’ lives, those of their families and associates in danger, undermining freedom of the press and shutting down critical media,” – said Secretary-general of Amnesty International.” concludes the report. “The right to freedom of expression and information, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention, constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and the development of every individual.”
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, NSO GROUP)