Pegasus Spyware Campaigns Gather Speed: Infections Identified in 45 Countries

Pegasus spyware is a genuine surveillance device that has been accredited to the Israeli cyber-intelligence company NSO Group. The spyware functions on both Android smartphones and iPhones to permit safety services to interrupt text messages, trail telephone calls, trail a telephone’s location and get passwords and data from apps connected to an infected appliance.

Since at least 2016, NSO Group has been offering Pegasus spyware to nation-state actors, as per the Citizen Lab, which has carried out an in-depth analysis into the use of the spyware.

The analysis into Pegasus spyware has been going on for two years, during which time the scientists have seen a major increase in the number of operators using the malware. In 2016, there were only 200 known servers linked with Pegasus spyware; nevertheless, by 2018 the number had risen to over 600 servers. There are currently 36 operators known to be using Pegasus Spyware. Infections have been identified in 45 countries and there are 10 operators with infections in another country.

Upsettingly, The Citizen Lab’s research shows that there are six operators in states that have a track record of using spyware on inhabitants targeting civil rights, namely the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Bahrain. The Citizen Lab declares that the spyware has been used by Gulf Cooperation Council states to trail dissidents, especially a UAE activist in 2016 and an Amnesty International staffer in Saudi Arabia this year. In a latest blog post, The Citizen Lab wrote: “Our conclusions paint a grim picture of the human-rights dangers of NSO’s worldwide propagation.”

The complete list of states where Pegasus spyware has been noticed is: Algeria, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Uganda, the UAE, Turkey, Tunisia, Thailand, Togo, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Singapore, South Africa, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Qatar, Pakistan, Palestine, the Netherlands, Oman, Mexico, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Kenya, Kuwait, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Israel, Greece, India, Egypt, France, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, Brazil, Yemen and Zambia.

Although the spyware has been noticed in those states, NSO Group has criticized The Citizen Lab’s research claiming that it hasn’t supplied the spyware to several of the states in the list, and that it only provides its product in a limited number of states that have been permitted under its Business Ethics Framework. The Citizen Lab stands by its research and maintains that grave suspicions have been raised concerning “the usefulness of [NSO Group’s] internal mechanism if it exists at all.”