Verum was staring off into space, lost in thought. She was daydreaming about her next meal – an enormous pizza with the most delicious pizza sauce, olives, mushrooms, capsicums, and of course, loads of cheesy cheese.
Suddenly, she noticed her crystal ball was making a familiar low but persistent humming sound. When she looked at it closely, she saw the swirly milky mist on its surface had given away to a shape – the shape of a majestic horse with wide wings.
“A pegasus!” exclaimed Verum, “It must be an update about the Pegasus spyware scandal!”
“What’s that?” said an inquisitive Felix.
“Pegasus is a spyware program created by an Israeli company called NSO. It’s malware software. That is, it infects Android and iPhone devices. Once that’s done, the software operators can extract any data from these devices. They can read messages and emails. They can secretly switch on the microphone and camera,” explained Orak.
“This means someone will have access to all my data,” said Scorch, “That is a scary thought.”
“In July, an investigation by 17 media organizations found out that authoritarian governments (a government with absolute control over the population) from all over the world have used Pegasus for spying on people,” added Verum, “These people include their political opponents, opposition leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, businesspeople and more!”
“But Verum, how did NSO sell this spyware outside Israel?” said Scorch.
“Under licenses issued by Israel’s Defence Ministry,” replied Verum, “NSO has claimed that it only sells this software to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. But after the reports of NSO’s Pegasus spyware misuse emerged, this Ministry launched an investigation into the matter. But it hasn’t released any results yet. So, Israel hasn’t announced how it will deal with NSO.”
“Oh,” said Orak.
“But last week, the United States (US) Commerce Department blacklisted NSO for engaging in activities contrary to US interests and national security. This means their US counterparts have to restrict exports to NSO,” said Verum, “Soon after the US announced this move, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid distanced the government from NSO, calling the latter a private company and not a government project.”
“These are interesting developments,” said Felix thoughtfully.