The New York Times, on January 28, published an article stating that Pegasus, spyware developed by NSO Group that is Israel-based, has been used to firm up Israel’s interests across the world.
The article suggested that Israel got nations who had been against it regarding the Palestine issue to switch their sides by providing this powerful spyware that can be deployed against the drug traffickers, terrorists, opposition activists, and the prying journalists. This spyware is being cited as the reason for the Abraham accords between Israel and its neighbouring Arab countries fell into place and got the blessings from Saudi Arabia as well.
The article reports that Pegasus was part of a $2-billion package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear transaction between Israel and India after the Prime Minister of India visited Israel for the first time. The reporters via the article also claimed that it was due to this deal that the Indian government changed its historical stance of pro-Palestine and voted in favour of Israel instead of in 2019 at the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council to deny the observer status to a Palestinian human rights organisation.
The Pegasus spyware is capable of not only moping up information storing on phones such as contacts but is also known to activate someone’s camera and microphone to turn it into a spying device without the knowledge of the owner. The spyware was allegedly used to entrap and murder a critic of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Jamal Khashoggi. According to the article, the spyware was used by the United Arab Emirates and Mexico amongst others against the critics of government along with drug traffickers. It is known to have been tested by the United States’ FBI, though it was not deployed in the nation reportedly.
The initial avatars of the tool were using spear phishing to enter phones and utilising a message that was developed to entice the target to click on a hostile link. Gradually it got upgraded into zero-click attacks where the phones were being infected even without any action by the targeted person. WhatsApp, in 2019, made a statement reporting that the spyware could enter phones via calls on the platform even if the calls were not attended.
The device used many such weaknesses to enter the phones and mostly the exploits were allegedly zero-day which means that the device manufacturers were also unaware of it. The spyware can be transmitted via air from a nearby wireless transmitter as well if the target’s phone is physically available.
So far, the Indian government has neither confirmed nor denied that it has deployed the spyware for any reason at all.