When it comes to advanced defense technology, Israel is often at the forefront, with the most advanced surveillance software such as Pegasus. However, the events of October 7 revealed a grim reality. Even the most advanced technologies can be overwhelmed.
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The sudden strike
The intensity and scale of Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7 was nothing short of shocking. Hamas, which rules Gaza, unleashed a barrage of 5,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
This airstrike was just one facet of their multi-faceted strategy. Militants simultaneously breached Israel’s borders at several points and used tactics such as paragliding to infiltrate deeper into Israeli territory.
The brutality of their surprise ground attack became apparent as they swept through Israeli areas, leading to tragic loss of life and the kidnapping of countless civilians.
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The NSO Group’s ultimate spyware failed
Pegasus was designed by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber intelligence company that develops and sells spyware to government agencies around the world. Although Pegasus is not just any spyware, it is often hailed as the pinnacle of cyber espionage tools. The design and capabilities reflect a meticulous understanding of both mobile software and human behavior. So why has the intelligence community failed to get advance warnings from the world’s most advanced phone surveillance software made in Israel? The answer to this critical question is still lurking.
How Pegasus works
Pegasus is a surveillance software that can remotely infect and monitor smartphones without the owner’s knowledge or consent. It’s the gold standard in phone spying – period. After it sneaks into a device, it chooses the right tools based on what the phone is using. Think of it as a Swiss army knife. If the phone doesn’t use a certain feature, Pegasus won’t bring up that specific tool. This way it stays better hidden because it only uses what it needs and doesn’t leave unnecessary clues.
What sets Pegasus apart
What really sets Pegasus apart is its ability to perform zero-click attacks. Traditional spyware often requires the target to make a mistake, such as clicking a suspicious link. However, Pegasus can infiltrate a device without such input.
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To gain access, it uses unknown vulnerabilities, which are called “zero-days” in the software. The term “zero-day” refers to developers having “zero days” to fix the problem once it becomes known. These vulnerabilities are highly valuable to hackers and are often used in significant cyber attacks.
Once inside, the surveillance options are enormous. In addition to accessing messages, emails and calls, it can also record conversations, secretly activate cameras and track user movements in real time. All this data is then encrypted and sent to a command-and-control server, where it is analyzed and stored.
Limitations of Pegasus spyware
Given all this, recent events in Israel become even more confusing. With a tool as powerful as Pegasus at their disposal, we have yet to understand how significant mobilization by Hamas in Gaza went under the radar. It’s a question that not only underlines the limitations of even the most sophisticated spyware.
The dark side of NSO Group’s Pegasus technology
The NSO Group claims that its technology is only used for legitimate purposes, such as fighting terrorism and crime. However, several reports have uncovered evidence that Pegasus has been used to attack human rights activists, journalists, dissidents, lawyers and politicians in several countries. Some of these targets have experienced harassment, intimidation, arrest, torture or murder.
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The company posted this statement on its website. In part it reads:
“We have the world’s most rigorous compliance and human rights programs based on the American values we deeply share, which has already resulted in multiple contract terminations with government agencies that misused our products.”
Kurt’s most important insights
No matter how state-of-the-art technology is, it is not infallible. Systems like Pegasus are undoubtedly advanced, but they come with their own challenges. As countries worldwide continue to rely on sophisticated surveillance tools, it is essential to know when they can be relied on and when they will fail to produce enough information to warn of an attack.
What do you think of the use of spyware such as Pegasus by governments? Do you find this justified or unethical? Let us know by writing to us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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