Apple Sends Notice of Hack
Pegasus – the Israeli-made spyware – continues to proliferate and enable bad actors to persecute journalists, dissidents, opposition politicians, and crime victims around the world.
This spyware transforms a smartphone into the surveillance equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. Pegasus has a “zero-day” capability, able to infiltrate any Apple or Android phone remotely, without requiring the users to fall for a phishing scam or click on some other trick. Once uploaded, Pegasus turns the victim’s camera and microphone into a 24/7 surveillance device, while also hoovering up every bit of data that passes through the device – from location histories to text, email, and phone messages.
We’ve written about how Mexican cartels have used Pegasus to track down and murder journalists. We’ve covered the role of Pegasus in the murder of Saudi dissident Adnan Khashoggi, and how an African government used it to spy on an American woman while she was receiving a briefing inside a State Department facility on her father’s abduction.
Now fresh evidence from Apple alerts shows how Pegasus continues to be used by governments to spy on political opponents. Journalists have learned that the Israeli-based NSO Group has sold its spyware to at least 10 governments. Two years ago, it was revealed that a government had used Pegasus to surveil Spanish politicians, including the prime minister, as well as regional politicians. Now it is happening in India. On Oct. 31, just in time for Halloween, Apple sent notices to more than 20 prominent journalists, think tank officials, and politicians in opposition to Prime Minster Narenda Modi that hacking attempts had been made on their smartphones.
In 2021, The Washington Post and other media organizations investigated a list obtained by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit media outlet, tracking down more than 1,000 phone numbers of hundreds of prominent Indians who were set to be surveilled by Pegasus. This plan now seems to have been executed, at least in part.
“Spyware technology has been used to clamp down on human rights and stifle freedom of assembly and expression,” said Likhita Banerj of Amnesty International. “In this atmosphere, the reports of prominent journalists and opposition leaders receiving the Apple notifications are particularly concerning in the months leading up to state and national elections.”
Yesterday Spain, today India, tomorrow the United States? It is public knowledge that the FBI owns a copy of Pegasus and that a recent high-level government attorney from the intelligence community has signed on to represent the NSO Group. This is all the more reason for Congress to pass serious reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to curtail all forms of illicit government surveillance of Americans.
PPSA will continue to monitor this story.