Personally, I am creeped out by the thought that others could be hearing/ seeing what goes on in my house. (Which is totally boring, by the way, but on principle.)
Alexa is minor league spying.
I cannot believe no one on this board uncorked a most significant New York Times article on METAR last week. (I think it has Pulitzer Prize written all over it. It’s a very long read, but well worth saving for later if you don’t have time now to take it all in.)
Edwin Snowden warned us that our phones were already spying on us. Few listened. Now we know the truth. Originally printed in the NY Times this week, this MSN link will display the NYT article without any paywall.
This chilling story is straight out of Dystopia.
Israel has been using this private Israeli company, NSO, as a carrot on a stick for regimes formally not friendly with Israel at the United Nations. (This is no different from our US MIC doing the same when selling jet planes and weapons to countries that don’t support our views or align with Human Rights or our democratic values.)
NSO’s “Pegasus” software (a subscription-based app) has landed in the hands of leaders in Mexico, India, Hungary, Poland, and several Suni Muslim countries in the Mid-East. (Critics accuse Saudi Arabia of using NSO’s Phantom app to hack Khashoggi’s cellphone.) Pegasus is an easy-to-use, “zero-click,” cyber weapon deployed as an all-seeing eye against opposition, journalists, and declared “enemies of the state.”
From the article:
"But by the time the company’s engineers walked through the door of the New Jersey facility in 2019, the many abuses of Pegasus had also been well documented. Mexico deployed the software not just against gangsters but also against journalists and political dissidents. The United Arab Emirates used the software to hack the phone of a civil rights activist whom the government threw in jail. Saudi Arabia used it against women’s rights activists and, according to a lawsuit filed by a Saudi dissident, to spy on communications with Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, whom Saudi operatives killed and dismembered in Istanbul in 2018.
Mind you too: these were “burner” phones which the FBI bought to use in this test.
NSO’s Pegasus, supposedly, doesn’t allow countries outside the US to hack into US cellphones. In other words, if a state agent in, say, Mexico or Hungary had a US cellphone number it wished to hack, this software would not activate. At least, this is how NSO markets this to US prospects in our Federal Intelligence agencies and Federal Government.
However, a new arm of NSO, called “Phantom,” demonstrated to our FBI in 2019 (at the very beginning of the long article, we learn of this demo) that they have a “workaround.”
This patch of the Pegasus app by “Phantom” would empower any US governmental agency buyer in the US to plug in any US cellphone number and turn our cellphones against us as tools to spy on us.
Phantom would give a US Spy agency our location and allow spies to see everything stored on the phone, including all digital media, and any surfed website - even if a user was employing a browser that doesn’t allow cookies.
From the article:
“This version of Pegasus was “zero click” — unlike more common hacking software, it did not require users to click on a malicious attachment or link — so the Americans monitoring the phones could see no evidence of an ongoing breach. They couldn’t see the Pegasus computers connecting to a network of servers around the world, hacking the phone, then connecting back to the equipment at the New Jersey facility. What they could see, minutes later, was every piece of data stored on the phone as it unspooled onto the large monitors of the Pegasus computers: every email, every photo, every text thread, every personal contact. They could also see the phone’s location and even take control of its camera and microphone. FBI agents using Pegasus could, in theory, almost instantly transform phones around the world into powerful surveillance tools — everywhere except in the United States.”
This is beyond Alexa: Pegasus allows overseas governmental agencies in possession of this app to turn on the mic and cameras of any cellphones (except US cellphone numbers,) no matter if it is Apple or Android IOS. Pegasus allows these spies to hear and see what the spied upon person is saying and doing as long as the cellphone is nearby. (If the person is outside its range in another room, the phone can still spy on others in the room where the cellphone resides.)
Supposedly, corporations cannot buy this “service” from NSO, and it is only available to sovereign governments.
You’ll want to read the whole story and let it digest over the weekend.
More telling is you’ll learn how once critics and non-supporters of Israel have now flipped since Israel has allowed specific regimes to buy this app.
Welcome to the Brave New World.
p.s. Again, Our NSA had already developed similar tools. But the NSO app has more features and is backed by the top cyber-hackers from Israel’s intelligence arm, which uses the software.
By extending your thinking, you have to be aware that Israel now has dirt on people in power in countries that are killing journalists and opposition leaders using the software. The Russians would call this Kompromat.
One more paragraph:
A yearlong Times investigation, including dozens of interviews with government officials, leaders of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, cyberweapons experts, business executives and privacy activists in a dozen countries, shows how Israel’s ability to approve or deny access to NSO’s cyberweapons has become entangled with its diplomacy. Countries like Mexico and Panama have shifted their positions toward Israel in key votes at the United Nations after winning access to Pegasus. Times reporting also reveals how sales of Pegasus played an unseen but critical role in securing the support of Arab nations in Israel’s campaign against Iran and even in negotiating the Abraham Accords, the 2020 diplomatic agreements that normalized relations between Israel and some of its longtime Arab adversaries.
Lastly, I will add that this still does not mean our US government intelligence agencies are not in possession of NSO’s Pegasus and using it on phone numbers which are not from the USA. Sometimes, it is what is left unsaid which is as important as what is known.
Hey Russia, if you’re listening, Israel already knows what Pooty Poot did last Summer. And you can bet certain American agencies know too. Careful with that axe, Vlad. It swings both ways.