According to Snowden, if nothing is done, no cell phone will be safe from government hackers.
Governments must impose a global moratorium on the international trade in espionage software, or no mobile phone will be safe from government-sponsored hackers, former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden said in an interview with Britain’s The Guardian.
Thus, he commented on the recent journalistic investigation into the use of the spyware Pegasus and the activities of its developer, the Israeli company NSO Group.
Pegasus software collects data from infected mobile phones, including the content of emails, text messages, contact lists, location data, photos, videos, and can also activate the microphone and camera on the device for covert recording. The program exploits zero-day vulnerabilities in iOS and Android for hidden installation on smartphones and remote information retrieval. For example, on iOS 14.6 Pegasus can be remotely installed via iMessage without following the link (zero-click attack).
As part of the investigation, experts from the French NGO Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International analyzed a list of 50,000 phone numbers believed to belong to persons of interest to NSO Group customers and found dozens of successful Pegasus spyware infections.
The NSO Group itself states that it takes ethical considerations into account and sells its software only to verified customers. In addition, the company is subject to the export control regulations of Israel, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The manufacturer also stressed that it has no information on how its customers use the Pegasus.
Snowden said the new investigation illustrates how commercial malware allows oppressive regimes to spy on large numbers of people.
“If they can do the same thing from a distance with little cost and without risk, they will start doing it all the time with everyone who is of any interest,” Snowden said. “If nothing is done to stop the sale of this technology, the number will turn out to be not 50 thousand, but 50 million goals, and this will happen much earlier than we expect.”
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