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Current Affairs

Operations of Pegasus spyware

Date: 03 February 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A report in New York Times recently carried details about use of Pegasus spyware in taking forward interests of Israel.

 

Background

The Pegasus spyware issue has been at the forefront of a spying scandal, which has been observed in India as well.

 

Details

  • The report says that Israel used Pegasus software to influence countries in favour of Palestine to switch sides.

  • The spyware was the main reason why the Abraham accords between Israel and Gulf countries moved ahead with the blessings of Saudi Arabia.

  • The spyware can be used against drug traffickers, smugglers and terrorists along with anti-government activists and opposition party leaders.

  • It has been accused that Pegasus was part of a $2-billion package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear offered to India in 2019 during visit by Indian Prime Minister.

  • It was the main reason for India abandoning its pro-Palestine stand and voting against giving Palestinian human rights organization observer status.

 

Pegasus spyware

  • Apart from gathering data stored on phones such as photos and messages, the spyware can also activate a phone’s cameras and microphones without owner’s knowledge.

  • The spyware was used by Saudi Arabia against dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mexico and UAE used it to target drug traffickers and government critics.

 

Infecting device

  • Earlier it employed a spear phishing technique by sending a message to target individuals and enticing them to click on a malicious link. 

  • It later evolved into ‘zero-click’ attacks with the phones being infected without any action from the target individual.

  • It can also be delivered over the air from a nearby wireless transmitter, or inserted manually if the target phone is physically available.

 

Usage in India

  • The Pegasus is a cyber weapon and can be sold only to authorized government entities as per Israeli law. The governments are the clients.

  • A study had shown that about 40 journalists, Cabinet Ministers, and holders of constitutional positions were targeted with the spyware.

  • In India, Rule 419A states that intercepting information can take place only with authorization of Home Secretary at central level.

  • In unavoidable circumstances, the Joint Secretary or officers of higher level can issue permission if they have pre-authorization from Home Secretary.