Pegasus has caused controversy for years. Poland in one government with dictatorships | World news

The alleged Polish victims of the Pegasus program are Krzysztof Brejza, Roman Giertych and Ewa Wrzosek. That is, an important opposition politician, a lawyer / former politician engaging in opposition activities, and a prosecutor trying to resist the ruling party’s actions. People with different motivations, but with a common denominator in the form of activities potentially harmful to power.

A similar pattern is repeated in many countries where the probable misuse of Pegasus has been detected since 2013. Despite this, the software producer swears again and again that it only serves to combat terrorism and organized crime. Its users are to be thoroughly verified, and the entire process is to be supervised by the Israeli authorities. The authorities which, a little over a month ago, removed Poland from the list of potential buyers. Even before the information about the alleged use of Pegasus against the three Poles mentioned appeared.

More articles about the Pegasus scandal on the Gazeta.pl home page

Alleged indiscriminate use to evil

The Israeli government’s decision is seen as a pre-emptive move in the face of the rapidly deteriorating atmosphere around the Israeli company NSO that developed the software. In July, the media in several countries published the results of their joint investigation into the use of Pegasus to spy on various types of opposition and activists. Generally people who have little to do with terrorist or criminal activities. Plus politicians and diplomats. The investigation was based on unclearly captured confidential databases of 50,000 telephone numbers that were intended to be potential targets for Pegasus.

The analysis showed that the list included the numbers of, among others, numerous leaders of countries, such as the president of France (and the former prime minister and most of the ministers), presidents of hostile Algeria and Morocco, and the president of South Africa. In addition, there is a long list of opposition politicians and activists in Saudi Arabia (although here also members of the royal family), Algeria, Azerbaijan, India, Morocco, Mexico, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates. The numbers came from 45 countries around the world. From European countries, “only” a thousand numbers were to be introduced.

According to the analyzes of journalists and specialists, they were to be entered into the database by, inter alia, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Hungary and the UAE. The Mexican government was supposed to be the most active of the 15,000 numbers entered. Next on the list were Morocco and the UAE, which were to introduce about 10,000 each.

On a smaller scale, potential Pegasus attacks on oppositionists or dissidents have been reported in the media around the world for years. The best-known targets are to include Jamal Khashoggi, an American-Saudi journalist and oppositionist, kidnapped and brutally murdered in 2018 in Istanbul by Saudi Arabia’s services. Apart from him, the phones of his wife and close associates were also to be spied on.

An article describing how Pegasus works

Krzysztof BrejzaCitizen Lab: Pegasus is a tool that the Security Service could dream of

The Israelis have nothing to complain about

NSO believes that the data presented in July by the media is false and based on an unreliable, unverified source. Szalew Hulio, the head of the company, shortly after the publication of the results of the media investigation, exceptionally gave an interview to the Israeli industry portal “Calcalistech”. It doesn’t normally go public, and the whole company is very secretive. Hulio claimed, inter alia:

Let me be clear: journalists, human rights defenders and civil society organizations are prohibited targets. The client who sets them as a target ceases to be our client at the same time

He also argued that most of the 45 countries that are clients of his company are European. From the context, one gets the impression that, in the opinion of the Israeli, it is a guarantee of high ethical standards. On average, one client is expected to set about a hundred targets to attack annually. According to Hulio, it is not possible to collect as many as 50,000 of them, because that number was not supposed to be there from the beginning of the NSO’s existence. He also talked about the fact that his company refused to cooperate with more than 90 other countries, which posed a risk of misusing the Pegasus. Over the past three years, it was also supposed to disable access for five customers who were supposed to break the contract in some way.

An example of the correct use of Pegasus is the surveillance of El Chapo, or Joaquin Guzman, the most powerful boss of the Mexican drug cartels in his time. In 2019, the Israeli website “Ynet” wrote that the Mexican government was the first user of the software. In 2011, it served as a testing ground for the newly completed Pegasus. With the cooperation of American and Israeli services, the software was used to successfully surveillance El Chapo. Pegasus was a major contributor to his arrest in 2014.

Maciej WasikBroken record of deputy Kamiński for Pegasus. “Top secret”

Progressive problems

Despite this, after just two months, the NSO had to refute the allegations again. In September, the results of its investigation were published by the Canadian group Citizen Lab. It was based on its many years of analysis of Internet traffic, which was most likely a manifestation of the activity of Israeli software. The investigation began in 2016 when Citizen Lab received information from UAE dissident Ahmed Mansor about a potential Pegasus attack. He gave the Canadians his phone and a suspicious message with a link that turned out to be an attempted attack.

It was the Canadians’ report that for the first time contained information about the potential use of Pegasus by Polish services, which later led to the disclosure of three names. The Polish user of the software was to use the code name “ORZELBIALY”. Overall, traces of Pegasus activity were to be registered in 45 countries. Thirty-six potential users of the software were identified, ten of which would target targets outside their home country, which NSO said would be banned and impossible.

The effect of such reports was the decision of the US authorities at the turn of October and November, which put the NSO on a black list of companies whose actions are contrary to the interests of foreign policy and security of their country. Along with the creators of Pegasus, another Israeli company, Candiru, was also introduced to provide similar software. This is the excerpt from the justification:

This decision is the result of delivering spyware to governments of countries that have used it maliciously to attack officials, journalists, entrepreneurs, activists, scientists and diplomats

Inclusion on the US list is a serious problem for Israelis. It puts them in a row with hackers acting on behalf of the Chinese or Russian authorities. It potentially significantly hinders doing business in Western countries allied with the USA. Behind the official Washington message, there were probably unofficial negotiations with the Israeli authorities, who greatly value allied relations with the Americans. Tel Aviv has a significant impact on the activities of NSO and similar companies as it grants special export licenses for their spyware. Like most countries, they control arms exports.

At the end of November, an updated list of countries through which Israeli companies can sell their IT tools for surveillance, surveillance and cyber attacks was published. It has shrunk drastically from 103 countries to 37. There is no such as Saudi Arabia or the UAE, but also Poland and Hungary.

About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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