Bill Marczak, The Citizen Lab - How Pegasus Spyware is Being Used

Bill Marczak, The Citizen Lab
How Pegasus Spyware is Being Used


Life is the ultimate zero-sum game.  Every minute we devote to something, we are diverting from something else.

A good life is one in which all those “somethings,” all the pleasures and responsibilities, are kept in balance.

As an elderly and therefore somewhat detached observer it seems to me there’s an ever-increasing tilt in the balance of people’s lives towards time connected to the digital universe weighed against time disconnected from devices, in the company of people or nature.

Makes me worry.  And so does this: the digital share of our universe is not only devouring time better spent doing anything else, mere digital connection can eradicate your personal space, your privacy.

“Private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls from popular mobile messaging apps” – that’s what an Israeli-made spyware suite called Pegasus can extract from your life and pass on to…whomever.  Pegasus has been available for about five years and is marketed to police departments, secret police departments and other private clients.

And data retrieval isn’t all it can do. “The operator can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activity in the phone’s vicinity.”

It sounds to me like Turkish intelligence had something like these capabilities in tracking the movements of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The facts about Pegasus, what it can do, and how and where it’s been used – NOT my Khashoggi speculation – are derived from a recently released investigative report Hide and Seek, from The Citizen Lab, of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, at the University of Toronto.

The Citizen Lab made the front page of the New York Times last summer with its investigation of Pegasus spyware being used against journalists and human rights campaigners in Mexico.  The Times reporter Nicole Perlroth talked with us about it.  Check it out in the archive here.

But now, there’s more to say about Pegasus: new cases, and a global perspective.



Bill Marczak is a Senior Research Fellow at Citizen Lab, a co-founder of Bahrain Watch, and a Postdoctoral Researcher at UC Berkeley, where I received my PhD in Computer Science under the advisorship of Vern Paxson. My work focuses on novel technological threats to Internet freedom, including new censorship and surveillance tools. My expertise is in Internet scanning and conducting digital investigations. Coverage of my work has been featured in Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Washington Post, on CNN, and on Larry King.



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