"Pegasus": What Is It And Why Is It So Powerful?

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Spyware Pegasus has once again become a trend in the world, after hackers used this app to steal private information from the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez.

Hacker photo behind a row of codes

Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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Leer en español: "Pegasus": ¿qué es y por qué es tan poderoso?

A political storm is brewing again in Spain, this time with that country's president, Pedro Sánchez, in the eye of the storm, playing both the role of victim and victimizer.

It should be remembered that in recent days it was known that the Spanish president was hacked through the Pegasus application. This was announced by the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, who, through a hearing that he offered to public opinion, explained that the interventions on Sánchez's cell phone, as well as that of his Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, took place between May and June. of 2021.

In the case of the president, it is known that on May 19 and 31 of the same month, 2.6 gigabytes of information and 130 megabytes, respectively, were stolen; while Robles had 9 megabytes of data looted in June.

Of course, this situation has caused a controversy in which some politicians asked for the head of Paz Esteban, director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), whom they hold responsible for not foreseeing or stopping the Pegasus attack on the Spanish government.

"In any democratic country, if the head of the intelligence services happens to be illegally spying on the president and part of the Council of Ministers, her position would be untenable," explained the spokesmen for the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a party Spanish politician of Catalan influence.

Pegasus: blessing or curse?

The intrusion into Pedro Sánchez's private information has made Pegasus once again in the conversation of public opinion around the world, with questions such as: “what is Pegasus?”; "who created it?" and “what other cases have been seen of governments 'infected' with this application?”.

LatinAmerican Post will make a brief summary of the information that has been collected from Pegasus for more than 6 years and the impact it has had on world politics.

To begin with, we must remember that Pegasus is part of an area of cybersecurity known as Spyware. This type of apps allows the hacker to gain total control of a device after it has been installed on it. 

The victim can download and install this software via a malicious link, and then start running in the background. Thus, without the person noticing it, the attacker has full access to the information on their phone or tablet, from reading text messages to accessing social networks such as WhatsApp, Messenger or Telegram, in which private information is normally stored. and delicate.

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Who created Pegasus?

Although this type of software may seem illegal in a certain sense, the truth is that in the beginning, its main purpose was to help governments around the world to spy on criminals in their respective countries, either for national purposes or in the midst of international cooperation.

At least that's what NSO Group , an Israeli cyber technology company, creator of Pegasus, says. On its website, the company explains that the development of its technology is based on confronting international criminals who also have access to highly sophisticated tools to commit their crimes around the world.

“Terrorists, drug traffickers, pedophiles and other criminals have access to advanced technology and are more difficult to monitor, track and capture than ever (…) while government intelligence and law enforcement agencies strive to collect evidence and intelligence about their activities”, explains NSO Group.

Faced with this reality, the company assures that it has dedicated itself in recent years to developing "the best technology of its kind to help government agencies detect and prevent a wide range of local and global threats"; also indicating that its work is supported by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (FVEY).

"The growing gap between the ability of law enforcement to legally access data and their ability to acquire and use the content of that data is a pressing international concern that requires urgent and sustained attention," they expressed at the time from this alliance. International made up of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

What other cases have occurred in recent years?

According to the human rights policy defended by NSO Group, there are contractual obligations that limit the holders of its technology to use it only to prevent and investigate serious crimes, prohibiting at all costs "violating human rights"; however, it seems that this point has not prevented Pegasus from being used as an illegal Spyware.

In 2021, the organization Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International published a report on the impact of this application on society, showing that, until then, it had a presence in at least ten countries in the world: India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan. , Hungary, Mexico, Morocco, Bahrain and Rwanda; however, his footprint extended much further.

Thus, governments such as the French and the Salvadoran states have also been affected by Pegasus: the first, after learning that one of President Emmanuel Macron's personal cell phones had been infected by the app; while in El Salvador, the government would be responsible for leaks and hacking of journalists and NGOs in that country.

" A joint investigation by Access Now and The Citizen Lab has identified the large-scale use of NSO Group's Pegasus spyware against journalists and members of civil society organizations in El Salvador," Amnesty International revealed in January this year.

In response, the Secretary of Communications, Sofía Medina, stressed that "the Government of El Salvador is in no way related to Pegasus and is not a client of NSO Group."

In this way, Pegasus has been involved in the new world politics, with high command of the planet affected by this Spyware that for some is still legal.