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Encrypted messaging: ECHR says no to states that want to spy on them

ECHR landmark ruling in favor of encrypted messaging, featuring EviCypher NFC HSM technology by Freemindtronic.

Protecting encrypted messaging: the ECHR decision

Encrypted messaging is vital for digital privacy and free speech, but complex to protect. The historic ECHR decision of February 13, 2024 supports strong encryption against government surveillance. We discuss the importance of this decision. You will discover EviCypher NFC HSM encryption technology from Freemindtronic, guardian of this decision but for all messaging services in the world.

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Encrypted messaging: ECHR says no to states that want to spy on them

The historic judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) elevates encrypted messaging to the rank of guardian of privacy and freedom of expression. But this also poses security and public order problems. On February 13, 2024, she spoke out in favor of strong encryption, against state interference.

The ECHR has rejected Russian authorities’ request to Telegram, a messaging application, to provide private keys for encrypting its users’ communications, or to install backdoors that would allow authorities to access them. The Court considered that this request violated the rights to privacy and correspondence, as well as freedom of expression, of Telegram users.

The context of the case

The case background Six journalists and human rights activists challenged the request of the Russian authorities to Telegram before the ECHR. They claimed that this request violated their fundamental rights. They relied on Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These articles protect the right to privacy and correspondence, and the right to freedom of expression.

The reasoning of the Court

The Court’s reasoning The Court acknowledged that the request of the Russian authorities had a legitimate aim of national security and crime prevention. However, it found that the interference with the rights of the applicants was not proportionate to the aim pursued. It emphasised that encryption plays a vital role in ensuring the confidentiality of communications and the protection of personal data. It held that the request of the Russian authorities was too general and vague. It did not offer enough safeguards against abuse. It could deter people from using encrypted messaging services.

The Court also noted that encryption helps citizens and businesses to defend themselves against the misuse of information technologies, such as hacking, identity theft, data breach, fraud and undue disclosure of confidential information. It stated that this should be duly taken into account when assessing the measures that could weaken encryption.

The Court further observed that, in order to be useful to the authorities, the information must be decrypted at some point. It suggested that the authorities should use other means to obtain the necessary information, such as undercover operations, metadata analysis and international cooperation.

The consequences of the decision

The decision’s implications The decision of the Court is final and binding for Russia. It has to implement it within a reasonable time. It also has a broader impact. It sets out principles applicable to all member states of the Council of Europe, which comprises 47 countries. It sends a strong signal in favour of the respect of fundamental rights on the internet. It aligns with the position of several international organisations, such as the UN, the EU or the OSCE. They have stressed the importance of encryption for the protection of human rights online.

The official link of the ECHR decision is: AFFAIRE PODCHASOV c. RUSSIE and AFFAIRE PODCHASOV c. RUSSIE and AFFAIRE PODCHASOV c. RUSSIE. You can access it by clicking on the title or copying the address in your browser.

The position of other countries in the world

Encryption of communications is not a consensual topic. Countries have different, even opposite, positions on the issue. Here are some examples:

  • The Netherlands have argued for the right to strong encryption. They considered it a human right that must be safeguarded, in the country’s own interest.
  • The United States have repeatedly asked technology companies to provide them with access to encrypted data. They invoked the need to fight terrorism. These requests have been challenged by companies, such as Apple. They refused to create backdoors in their encryption systems.
  • China adopted a cybersecurity law in 2016. It requires companies to cooperate with authorities to provide encryption keys or means to bypass encryption. This law has been denounced by human rights defenders. They fear that it will be used to strengthen the surveillance and censorship of the Chinese regime.
  • The European Union adopted a directive on the protection of personal data in 2016. It recognizes encryption as a technical measure suitable for ensuring the security of data. The EU also supported the development of end-to-end encryption. It funded projects such as the free software Signal, which allows to encrypt calls and messages.

These examples show the divergences and convergences between different countries on the subject of encryption. They also reveal the political, economic and social issues that are at stake.

The world’s reactions to the ECHR decision on Encrypted Messaging

The ECHR decision on Encrypted Messaging has sparked different reactions in the world. Some countries praised the judgment, which boosts the protection of human rights on the internet. Other countries slammed the position of the Court, which undermines, according to them, the judicial cooperation and the national security.

The supporters of the ECHR decision

The Netherlands are among the countries that supported the ECHR decision. They argued for the right to strong encryption, considering it a human right that must be safeguarded, in the country’s own interest. The European Union also backed the Court, reminding that encryption is a technical measure suitable to ensure the security of data, in accordance with the directive on the protection of personal data adopted in 2016. The EU also stressed that it funds the development of end-to-end encryption, through projects such as the free software Signal, which allows to encrypt calls and messages.

The opponents of the ECHR decision

The United States are among the countries that opposed the ECHR decision. They have repeatedly asked technology companies to provide them with access to encrypted data, invoking the need to fight terrorism. These requests have been challenged by companies, such as Apple, which have refused to create backdoors in their encryption systems. China also expressed its disagreement with the Court, stating that encryption of communications fosters the dissemination of illegal or dangerous content, such as terrorist propaganda, child pornography or hate speech. China recalled that it has adopted in 2016 a cybersecurity law, which requires companies to cooperate with authorities to provide encryption keys or means to bypass encryption.

The non-signatories of the European

Convention on Human Rights Some countries have not reacted to the ECHR decision, because they are not signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is the case for example of Russia, which ceased to be a member of the Council of Europe on March 16, 2022, after the invasion of Ukraine decided by the Kremlin. The country no longer participates in the activities of the ECHR. This is also the case of many countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America, which are not part of the Council of Europe and which have not ratified the Convention.

The signatory countries of the European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950, which aims to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the states parties. It entered into force in 1953, after being ratified by ten countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom .

Since then, the Convention has been ratified by 36 other countries, bringing the total number of states parties to 46. They are: Albania, Germany, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine.

All these countries recognize the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is in charge of ensuring the respect of the Convention. The ECHR can be seized by any person, group of persons or non-governmental organization who claims to be a victim of a violation of the Convention by one of the states parties. The ECHR can also be seized by a state party who alleges that another state party has violated the Convention. The ECHR delivers judgments that are final and binding for the states parties.

An innovative and sovereign alternative: the EviCypher NFC HSM technology

Facing the challenges of encryption of communications, some users may look for an alternative more innovative and sovereign than the traditional messaging applications. This is the case of the EviCypher NFC HSM technology, developed by the Andorran company Freemindtronic. This technology makes it possible to generate, store, manage and use AES-256 encryption keys to encrypt all communication systems, such as WhatsApp, sms, mms, rcs, Telegram, webmail, email client, private messaging like Linkedin, Skype, X and even via postal mail with encrypted QR code messages, etc.

EviCypher NFC HSM: A Secure and Innovative Solution for Encrypted Messaging

Firstly, it guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of data, even if the messaging services are compromised for any reason, including by a court order. Indeed, it is physically impossible for Freemindtronic, the manufacturer of the DataShielder products, to provide encryption keys generated randomly by the user. These keys are stored encrypted in AES-256 via segmented keys in the HSM and NFC HSM. Only the user holds the decryption keys, which he can erase at any time.

Secondly, it preserves the anonymity and sovereignty of users, because it works without server and without database. It does not require internet connection, nor user account, nor phone number, nor email address. It leaves no trace of its use, nor of its user. It does not depend on the policies or regulations of the countries or companies that provide the communication services.

Thirdly, it offers an extreme portability and availability of encryption keys, thanks to the NFC technology. The user can carry his encryption keys on a physical support, such as a card, a bracelet, a key ring, etc. He can use them with any device compatible with NFC, such as a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, etc. He can also share them with other trusted users, in a simple and secure way.

Lastly, it is compatible with the EviCore NFC HSM or EviCore HSM technology, which allows to secure the access to equipment and applications. The user can thus use the same physical support to encrypt his communications and to authenticate on his different digital services.

The EviCypher NFC HSM technology guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of data, even if the messaging services are compromised for any reason, including by a court order. Indeed, it is physically impossible for Freemindtronic, the manufacturer of the DataShielder products, to provide encryption keys generated randomly by the user. These keys are stored encrypted in AES-256 via segmented keys in the HSM and NFC HSM. Only the user holds the decryption keys, which he can erase at any time.

Transforming Encrypted Messaging with EviCypher NFC HSM

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisively highlights encrypted messaging’s vital role in protecting privacy and freedom of speech. EviCypher NFC HSM, aligning perfectly with these principles, emerges as a pioneering solution. It confronts the challenges of state surveillance and privacy breaches head-on, providing unmatched defense for private communications. EviCypher NFC HSM goes beyond the ECHR’s conventional security and privacy requirements. It crafts an inviolable communication platform that honors users’ privacy rights profoundly. With its innovative approach, EviCypher NFC HSM introduces new data protection standards, forging a robust barrier against government intrusion.

Global Reach and User Empowerment

EviCypher NFC HSM’s technology has a broad global impact, seamlessly addressing the varied encryption landscapes worldwide. It provides a consistent answer to privacy and security issues, disregarding geographic limits. This global applicability makes EviCypher NFC HSM an indispensable tool for users worldwide, solidifying its position as a guardian of global privacy.

Despite potential skepticism about new technologies, the user-friendly and accessible nature of EviCypher NFC HSM aims to dispel such doubts. It promotes wider adoption among those seeking to enhance their communication security. Its compatibility with diverse devices and straightforward operation simplify encryption, facilitating an effortless shift towards secure communication practices.

EviCypher NFC HSM: A Beacon of User Autonomy

EviCypher NFC HSM technology deeply commits to empowering users. It allows individuals to generate, store, and manage their encryption keys independently, giving them direct control. This autonomy not only improves data security but also demonstrates a strong commitment to protecting users’ fundamental rights. It resonates with the values emphasized across the discussion, providing an effective way to strengthen online privacy and security. EviCypher NFC HSM marks a significant leap forward in the movement towards a more secure and private digital landscape.

This technologie HSM stands out as a state-of-the-art, self-sufficient solution, perfectly in line with the ECHR’s decisions and the worldwide need for secure encrypted communication. It leads the charge in advancing user autonomy and security, signaling a crucial evolution in encrypted messaging towards unparalleled integrity.

Incorporating EviCypher’s distinctive features—its operation without servers or databases, interoperability, and backward compatibility with all current communication systems, such as email, SMS, MMS, RCS, and social media messaging, even extending to physical mail via encrypted QR codes—highlights its adaptability and innovative spirit. EviCypher’s resistance to zero-day vulnerabilities, due to encrypting communications upfront, further underscores its exceptional security. Operating anonymously and offline, it provides instant usability without requiring user identification or account creation, ensuring seamless compatibility across phone, computer, and communication systems.

Summary at encrypted messaging

Encrypted Messaging is crucial for the digital society. It protects internet users’ privacy and freedom of expression. But it also challenges security and public order. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) supported strong encryption on February 13, 2024. It defended the right to encryption, against states that want to access it. Several international organizations agree with this position. They emphasize the importance of encryption for human rights online. However, the ECHR decision sparked diverse reactions worldwide. Different countries have different views on encryption.

Our conclusion on Encrypted Messaging

EviCypher NFC HSM technology is an innovative and sovereign alternative for Encrypted Messaging. Users can generate, store, manage and use AES-256 encryption keys. They can encrypt all communication systems, such as WhatsApp, sms, mms, rcs, Telegram, webmail, email client, etc. EviCypher NFC HSM technology ensures data confidentiality and integrity. It works even if messaging services are compromised. It preserves users’ anonymity and sovereignty. It does not need server or database. It offers extreme portability and availability of encryption keys, thanks to NFC technology. It is compatible with EviCore NFC HSM or EviCore HSM technology. They secure access to equipment and applications.

DataShielder products provide EviCypher NFC HSM technology. They are contactless encryption devices, guardians of keys and secrets. Freemindtronic, an Andorran company specialized in NFC security, designs and manufactures them.

The American Intelligence: How It Works

The American Intelligence How It Works : Section 702
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The American Intelligence: How It Works, Its Limits and Consequences

The American intelligence is one of the most powerful and influential in the world. It has a vast network of agencies, resources, and allies that enable it to collect, analyze, and act on information of strategic interest. However, the American intelligence also faces challenges and criticisms, both internally and externally. In this article, we will explore how the American intelligence works, what are its limits, and what are the consequences of its actions for the global security and privacy.

How the American Intelligence Works

The American intelligence is composed of 18 agencies that form the Intelligence Community (IC). These agencies are divided into two categories: the civilian agencies, which are under the supervision of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the military agencies, which are under the supervision of the Secretary of Defense.

The main civilian agencies are:

  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating foreign intelligence, as well as conducting covert operations and paramilitary activities.
  • The National Security Agency (NSA), which is responsible for collecting, processing, and disseminating signals intelligence (SIGINT), as well as conducting cyber operations and protecting the US government’s communications and information systems.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating domestic intelligence, as well as conducting counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement activities.
  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), which includes imagery, maps, and other geographic information.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is responsible for designing, launching, and operating reconnaissance satellites and other space-based systems that provide intelligence to the IC and the Department of Defense (DoD).
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is responsible for overseeing, coordinating, and integrating the activities of the IC, as well as providing strategic guidance and support to the DNI.

The main military agencies are:

  • The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is responsible for providing military intelligence to the DoD and the IC, as well as conducting human intelligence (HUMINT), counterintelligence, and defense attaché activities.
  • The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS), which is responsible for providing SIGINT and cyber support to the DoD and the IC, as well as conducting information assurance and cryptologic activities.
  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which is responsible for providing GEOINT support to the DoD and the IC, as well as conducting geospatial analysis and mapping activities.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is responsible for providing space-based intelligence support to the DoD and the IC, as well as conducting satellite reconnaissance and surveillance activities.
  • The Military Intelligence Corps (MI), which is responsible for providing tactical and operational intelligence to the Army and the joint force, as well as conducting HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and counterintelligence activities.
  • The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), which is responsible for providing maritime intelligence to the Navy and the joint force, as well as conducting HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and counterintelligence activities.
  • The Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA), which is responsible for providing intelligence to the Marine Corps and the joint force, as well as conducting HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and counterintelligence activities.
  • The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISRA), which is responsible for providing intelligence to the Air Force and the joint force, as well as conducting HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and counterintelligence activities.

The American intelligence works by collecting information from various sources, such as human sources, signals, images, open sources, and others. It then analyzes this information to produce intelligence products, such as reports, assessments, briefings, and forecasts. These products are then disseminated to the relevant consumers, such as the President, the Congress, the military, the policy makers, and the allies. The American intelligence also acts on the information it collects, by conducting operations, such as covert actions, cyber attacks, drone strikes, and special operations.

The Limits of the American Intelligence

The American intelligence, despite its capabilities and resources, is not omnipotent or infallible. It faces several limits and challenges, such as:

  • Legal and ethical limits: The American intelligence is bound by the laws and regulations of the US and the international community, as well as by the values and principles of the American democracy. It must respect the rights and liberties of the American citizens and the foreign nationals, as well as the sovereignty and interests of the other countries. It must also abide by the oversight and accountability mechanisms of the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches, as well as the public opinion and the media. The American intelligence must balance its need for secrecy and effectiveness with its duty for transparency and legitimacy.
  • Technical and operational limits: The American intelligence is limited by the availability and reliability of the information it collects, as well as by the accuracy and timeliness of the analysis it produces. It must deal with the challenges of information overload, data quality, data security, data privacy, and data sharing. It must also cope with the threats and risks of cyber attacks, counterintelligence, deception, and denial. The American intelligence must balance its need for innovation and adaptation with its need for standardization and coordination.
  • Strategic and political limits: The American intelligence is limited by the complexity and uncertainty of the global environment, as well as by the diversity and dynamism of the actors and issues it faces. It must deal with the challenges of globalization, multipolarity, regionalization, and fragmentation. It must also cope with the threats and opportunities of terrorism, proliferation, rogue states, failed states, and emerging powers. The American intelligence must balance its need for anticipation and prevention with its need for reaction and intervention.

The Consequences of the American Intelligence

The American intelligence has significant consequences for the global security and privacy, both positive and negative, such as:

  • Positive consequences: The American intelligence contributes to the protection and promotion of the national security and interests of the US and its allies, as well as to the maintenance and enhancement of the international peace and stability. It provides valuable information and insights to the decision makers and the operators, as well as to the public and the media. It also conducts effective operations and actions to deter, disrupt, or defeat the adversaries and the threats. The American intelligence plays a key role in the global intelligence cooperation and coordination, as well as in the global governance and leadership.
  • Negative consequences: The American intelligence also poses risks and challenges to the security and privacy of the US and its allies, as well as to the international order and norms. It may collect, analyze, or disseminate information that is inaccurate, incomplete, or biased, leading to errors, failures, or controversies. It may also conduct operations or actions that are illegal, unethical, or counterproductive, leading to violations, scandals, or backlashes. The American intelligence may face competition or conflict with the other intelligence services or actors, as well as with the other stakeholders or interests.

Section 702 of FISA: A Surveillance Without Control

  • On July 17, 2008, the US Congress passed section 702 of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), which authorizes the US intelligence agencies to collect the electronic communications of non-Americans located abroad, without a warrant from the FISA judge.
  • On January 19, 2018, the US Congress extended section 702 of FISA until December 31, 2023, without making any substantial changes.
  • On March 22, 2023, the US Congress extended section 702 of FISA again until April 19, 2024, without making any significant changes.
  • On December 16, 2023, the US Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a four-month extension of section 702 of FISA, avoiding its expiration at the end of the year.

The Violation of the Right to Privacy

  • On June 5, 2013, the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the existence of the PRISM program, which allowed the US intelligence agencies to access the data of the users of the main electronic service providers, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple.
  • On October 6, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) invalidated the Safe Harbor, an agreement that allowed the transfer of personal data between the European Union and the United States, considering that it did not offer an adequate level of protection.
  • On July 16, 2020, the CJEU invalidated the Privacy Shield, the successor of the Safe Harbor, for the same reasons, considering that the risk of interference by the US intelligence services in the transferred data was incompatible with the respect of the fundamental rights of the persons concerned.
  • On July 31, 2023, the CJEU issued a ruling that confirmed the invalidity of the Privacy Shield and imposed strict conditions for the transfer of personal data to third countries, especially the United States, under the standard contractual clauses (SCCs) or the binding corporate rules (BCRs).

The Legal and Political Consequences

  • On October 24, 2013, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that condemned the massive surveillance activities of the US intelligence services and called for the suspension of the cooperation agreements on security and counter-terrorism.
  • On October 23, 2015, the European Parliament adopted another resolution that requested the creation of an independent international tribunal to examine the complaints of the European citizens regarding the surveillance of the US intelligence services.
  • On September 14, 2018, the European Parliament adopted a third resolution that called for the suspension of the Privacy Shield, due to the non-compliance of the commitments made by the United States on the protection of personal data.
  • On August 31, 2023, the European Parliament adopted a fourth resolution that asked the European Commission to propose a new legislation on the protection of personal data in the context of cross-border data flows, which would guarantee a level of protection equivalent to that of the general data protection regulation (GDPR).

Sources:

Congress passes temporary extension of FISA Section 702 surveillance program – Axios:

The Court of Justice invalidates Decision 2016/1250 on the adequacy of the protection provided by the EU-US Data Protection Shield:

FISA Section 702: What it is and why Congress is debating it – NBC News

New technologies and products that limit the possibilities of intelligence

Facing the capabilities of collection and analysis of the American intelligence, which threaten the privacy and sovereignty of individuals and countries, there are new technologies and products that allow to limit the possibilities of intelligence. These technologies and products use techniques of encryption, cryptography, blockchain or NFC to protect personal data and electronic communications. They offer an alternative to traditional solutions, which are often vulnerable to attacks or interceptions by the American intelligence. Among these technologies and products, we can mention:

  • EviCypher NFC HSM and EviCypher HSM OpenPGP, which are patented technologies in the United States in the field of cybersecurity developed by Freemindtronic SL Andorra, used in counter-espionage products such as DataShielder Defense. They allow to encrypt and decrypt data without contact, thanks to hardware security modules that use NFC technology. They offer compatibility with OpenPGP standards, operating without server, without database, with a very high level of flexibility from different removable, fixed and online and offline storage media including NFC HSM.
  • DataShielder DefenseDataShielder Defense, which is a counter-espionage product developed by Freemindtronic SL Andorra, which uses EviCore NFC HSM and EviCore HSM OpenPGP technologies to encrypt and decrypt all types of data and communication services. This product protects sovereign communications, by preventing the American intelligence from accessing personal, professional or state secrets. It also guarantees the sovereignty of users, by making their data anonymous and inviolable.
  • Signal, which is an instant messaging application that uses the Signal protocol, which is an end-to-end encryption protocol that ensures the confidentiality and integrity of messages. This application allows to communicate anonymously and securely, by avoiding the surveillance or censorship of the American intelligence.
  • Tor, which is a decentralized network that uses volunteer relays to route Internet traffic anonymously and encrypted. This network allows to browse the web without leaving traces, by hiding the IP address and location of users. It also allows to access hidden websites, which are not indexed by search engines.

These technologies and products represent examples of innovative solutions that limit the possibilities of the American intelligence and preserve the individual and collective sovereignty. They also illustrate the issues and challenges related to the use of digital technologies in the field of intelligence.

Conclusion

The American intelligence is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that has a significant impact on the world. It has many strengths and weaknesses, as well as many opportunities and threats. It has many achievements and failures, as well as many benefits and costs. It is a source of both security and insecurity, both privacy and surveillance. It is a subject of both admiration and criticism, both cooperation and confrontation. The American intelligence is a paradox that requires a careful and balanced approach.

Dual-Use Encryption Products: a regulated trade for security and human rights

Dual-Use encryption products a regulated trade for security and human rights by Freemindtronic-from Andorra
Dual-use encryption products by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

Dual-use encryption products: a challenge for security and human rights

Encryption is a technique that protects data and communications. Encryption products are dual-use goods, which can have civilian and military uses. The export of these products is controlled by the EU and the international community, to prevent their misuse or diversion. This article explains the EU regime for the export of dual-use encryption products, and how it has been updated.

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The international regulations on dual-use encryption products

The main international regulations that apply to dual-use encryption products are the Wassenaar Arrangement and the EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods.

The Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement is a multilateral export control regime that aims to contribute to regional and international security and stability. It promotes transparency and responsibility in the transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. It was established in 1996 and currently has 42 participating states, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Russia, China and most of the EU member states.

The Wassenaar Arrangement maintains a list of dual-use goods and technologies that are subject to export control by the participating states. The list is divided into 10 categories, with subcategories and items. Category 5, part 2, covers information security, including encryption products. The list of encryption products includes, among others, the following items:

  • Cryptographic systems, equipment, components and software, using symmetric or asymmetric algorithms, with a key length exceeding 56 bits for symmetric algorithms or 512 bits for asymmetric algorithms, or specially designed for military or intelligence use.
  • Cryptanalytic systems, equipment, components and software, capable of recovering the plain text from the encrypted text, or of finding cryptographic keys or algorithms.
  • Cryptographic development systems, equipment, components and software, capable of generating, testing, modifying or evaluating cryptographic algorithms, keys or systems.
  • Non-cryptographic information security systems, equipment, components and software, using techniques such as steganography, watermarking, tamper resistance or authentication.
  • Technology for the development, production or use of the above items.

The participating states of the Wassenaar Arrangement are required to implement national export controls on the items listed in the arrangement, and to report annually their exports and denials of such items. However, the arrangement does not impose binding obligations on the participating states, and each state is free to decide whether to grant or refuse an export license, based on its own policies and national interests.

The EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods

The common legal framework of the EU for dual-use goods

The EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods is a common legal framework. It applies to all EU member states, and it has two main goals. First, it aims to ensure a consistent and effective implementation of the international obligations of export control. Second, it aims to protect the security and human rights of the EU and its partners. The regime is based on the Regulation (EU) 2021/821, which was adopted in May 2021 and entered into force in September 2021. This regulation replaces the previous Regulation (EC) No 428/2009.

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821: the principles and criteria of export control

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821 establishes a Union list of dual-use goods. These are goods that can have both civilian and military uses, such as software, equipment and technology. These goods are subject to an export authorization, which means that exporters need to obtain a permission from the competent authorities before exporting them. The Regulation also sets out a set of general principles and criteria for granting or refusing such authorization. The Union list of dual-use goods is based on the international export control regimes, including the Wassenaar Arrangement. It covers the same categories and items as the latter. However, the EU list also includes some additional items that are not covered by the international regimes. These are cyber-surveillance items that can be used for internal repression or human rights violations.

The Union list of dual-use goods: the categories and items subject to an export authorization

The Union list of dual-use goods consists of ten categories, which are:

  • Category 0: Nuclear materials, facilities and equipment
  • Category 1: Materials, chemicals, micro-organisms and toxins
  • Category 2: Materials processing
  • Category 3: Electronics
  • Category 4: Computers
  • Category 5: Telecommunications and information security
  • Category 6: Sensors and lasers
  • Category 7: Navigation and avionics
  • Category 8: Marine
  • Category 9: Aerospace and propulsion

Each category contains a number of items, which are identified by a code and a description. For example, the item 5A002 is “Information security systems, equipment and components”. The items are further divided into sub-items, which are identified by a letter and a number. For example, the sub-item 5A002.a.1 is “Cryptographic activation equipment or software designed or modified to activate cryptographic capability”.

The novelties of the Regulation (EU) 2021/821: the due diligence obligation, the catch-all clause, the human security approach and the transparency and information exchange mechanism

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821 also provides for different types of export authorizations. These are individual, global, general or ad hoc authorizations, depending on the nature, destination and end-use of the items. Moreover, the Regulation introduces some novelties, such as:

  • A due diligence obligation for exporters. This means that exporters have to verify the end-use and the end-user of the items, and to report any suspicious or irregular transaction.
  • A catch-all clause. This allows the competent authorities to impose an export authorization on items that are not listed, but that can be used for weapons of mass destruction, a military end-use, human rights violations or terrorism.
  • A human security approach. This requires the competent authorities to take into account the potential impact of the items on human rights, international humanitarian law, regional stability and sustainable development, especially for cyber-surveillance items.
  • A transparency and information exchange mechanism. This requires the competent authorities to share information on the authorizations, denials and consultations of export, and to publish annual reports on their export control activities.

The dual-use encryption products: sensitive goods for security and human rights

The dual-use encryption products are a specific type of dual-use goods that fall under the category 5 of the Union list. These are products that use cryptographic techniques to protect the confidentiality, integrity and authenticity of data and communications. These products can have both civilian and military uses, and they raise important issues for security and human rights.

The dual-use encryption products: a definition and examples

The dual-use encryption products are defined by the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 as “information security systems, equipment and components, and ‘software’ and ‘technology’ therefor, which use ‘cryptography’ or cryptanalytic functions”. The Regulation also provides a list of examples of such products, such as:

  • Cryptographic activation equipment or software
  • Cryptographic equipment for mobile cellular systems
  • Cryptographic equipment for radio communication systems
  • Cryptographic equipment for computer and network security
  • Cryptanalytic equipment and software
  • Quantum cryptography equipment and software

The dual-use encryption products: security issues

The dual-use encryption products can have a significant impact on the security of the EU and its partners. On the one hand, these products can enhance the security of the EU and its allies, by protecting their sensitive data and communications from unauthorized access, interception or manipulation. On the other hand, these products can also pose a threat to the security of the EU and its adversaries, by enabling the encryption of malicious or illegal activities, such as terrorism, espionage or cyberattacks. Therefore, the export of these products needs to be carefully controlled, to prevent their misuse or diversion to undesirable end-users or end-uses.

The dual-use encryption products: human rights issues

The dual-use encryption products can also have a significant impact on the human rights of the EU and its partners. On the one hand, these products can protect the human rights of the EU and its citizens, by safeguarding their privacy and freedom of expression on the internet. On the other hand, these products can also violate the human rights of the EU and its partners, by enabling the repression or surveillance of dissidents, activists or journalists by authoritarian regimes or non-state actors. Therefore, the export of these products needs to take into account the potential consequences of the items on human rights, international humanitarian law, regional stability and sustainable development, especially for cyber-surveillance items.

The modification of the Union list of dual-use goods by the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1

The Union list of dual-use goods is not static, but dynamic. It is regularly updated to reflect the changes in the technological development and the international security environment. The latest update of the list was made by the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the Regulation (EU) 2021/821.

The changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 reflects the changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021. These are the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. These regimes are voluntary and informal arrangements of states that coordinate their national export control policies on dual-use goods. The EU is a member of these regimes, and it aligns its Union list of dual-use goods with their lists of controlled items. The changes made by these regimes include the addition, deletion or modification of some items, as well as the clarification or simplification of some definitions or technical parameters.

The new items added to the Union list of dual-use goods: the quantum technologies, the drones and the facial recognition systems or biometric identification systems

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 also adds some new items to the Union list of dual-use goods. These are items that are not covered by the international export control regimes, but that are considered to be sensitive for the security and human rights of the EU and its partners. These items include:

  • Certain types of software and technology for the development, production or use of quantum computers or quantum cryptography. These are devices or techniques that use the principles of quantum physics to perform computations or communications that are faster or more secure than conventional methods.
  • Certain types of equipment, software and technology for the development, production or use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. These are aircraft or systems that can fly without a human pilot on board, and that can be used for various purposes, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, delivery or attack.
  • Certain types of equipment, software and technology for the development, production or use of facial recognition systems or biometric identification systems. These are systems or techniques that can identify or verify the identity of a person based on their facial features or other biological characteristics, such as fingerprints, iris or voice.

The entry into force and application of the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 entered into force on 7 January 2022. It applies to all exports of dual-use goods from the EU from that date. The exporters of dual-use goods need to be aware of the changes and updates to the Union list of dual-use goods, and to comply with the export control rules and procedures established by the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. The competent authorities of the member states need to implement and enforce the new Union list of dual-use goods, and to cooperate and coordinate with each other and with the Commission. The Commission needs to monitor and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the new Union list of dual-use goods, and to report to the European Parliament and the Council.

The national regulations on dual-use encryption products

How some countries have their own rules on dual-use encryption products

The case of the United States

Some countries have their own national regulations on dual-use encryption products, which may differ or complement the existing regimes. For example, the United States has a complex and strict export control system, based on the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The EAR classify encryption products under category 5, part 2, of the Commerce Control List (CCL). The EAR require an export license for most encryption products, except for some exceptions, such as mass market products, publicly available products, or products intended for certain countries or end-users. The EAR also require that exporters submit annual self-classification reports, semi-annual sales reports, and encryption review requests for certain products.

The case of Andorra

Andorra is a small country between France and Spain. It is not an EU member, but it has a customs union with it. However, this customs union does not cover all products. It only covers those belonging to chapters 25 to 97 of the Harmonized System (HS), which are mainly industrial products. Agricultural products and products belonging to chapters 1 to 24 of the HS are free of import duties in the EU. But they are subject to the most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment in Andorra.

Andorra has adopted the EU list of dual-use goods. It requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. This regulation came into force on 9 September 2021 and replaced the previous Regulation (EC) No 428/2009. Andorra has also adopted the necessary customs provisions for the proper functioning of the customs union with the EU. These provisions are based on the Community Customs Code and its implementing provisions, by the Decision No 1/2003 of the Customs Cooperation Committee.

Andorra applies the EU regulation, as it is part of the internal market. Moreover, Andorra has adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods. This modification reflects the changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021. It also adds some new items, such as software and technologies for quantum computing, drones or facial recognition. The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 came into force on 7 January 2022, and applies to all exports of dual-use goods from the EU from that date.

Andorra entered the security and defense sector for the first time by participating in Eurosatory 2022. This is the international reference exhibition for land and airland defense and security. Andorra became the 96th country with a security and defense industry on its territory. Among the exhibitors, an Andorran company, Freemindtronic, specialized in counter-espionage solutions, presented innovative products. For example, DataShielder Defense NFC HSM, a device to protect sensitive data against physical and logical attacks. It uses technologies such as EviCypher NFC HSM and EviCore NFC HSM, contactless hardware security modules (NFC HSM). The president of Coges events, a subsidiary of GICAT, identified these products as dual-use and military products. They need an export or transfer authorization, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Freemindtronic also showed its other security solutions, such as EviKey NFC HSM, a secure USB key, a security token. These products were displayed in the Discover Village, a space for start-ups and SMEs innovations.

Switzerland

Switzerland is not an EU member, but it has a free trade agreement with it. Switzerland has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Ordinance of 5 May 2021 on the control of dual-use goods. Switzerland applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Switzerland has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

Turkey

Turkey is not an EU member, but it has a customs union with it. Turkey has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Presidential Decree No 3990 of 9 September 2021 on the control of exports of dual-use goods. Turkey applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Turkey has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom left the EU on 31 January 2020. It has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Dual-Use Items (Export Control) Regulations 2021, which came into force on 9 September 2021. The United Kingdom applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. The United Kingdom has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

The challenges and opportunities for the exporters of dual-use encryption products

The exporters of dual-use encryption products face several challenges and opportunities in the current context of export control regulations. Among the challenges, we can mention:

  • The complexity and diversity of the regulations, which may vary depending on the countries, the products, the destinations and the end-uses, and which require a deep knowledge and a constant monitoring from the exporters.
  • The costs and delays related to the administrative procedures, which can be high and unpredictable, and which can affect the competitiveness and profitability of the exporters, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • The legal and reputational risks, which can result from an involuntary or intentional violation of the regulations, or from a misuse or diversion of the products by the end-users, and which can lead to sanctions, prosecutions or damages to the image of the exporters.

Among the opportunities, we can mention:

  • The growing demand and innovation for encryption products, which are increasingly used in many sectors and domains, such as finance, health, education, defense, security, human rights, etc.
  • The contribution to the security and human rights of the exporters, their customers and the general public, by enabling the protection of data, privacy, freedom of expression, access to information and democratic participation, thanks to encryption products.
  • The cooperation with the competent authorities, the civil society and the international community, to ensure the compliance and accountability of the exporters, and to support the development and implementation of effective and balanced encryption policies and regulations, that respect the security and human rights of all stakeholders.

Conclusion

Dual-use encryption products can have both civil and military uses. They are subject to export control regulations at different levels: international, regional and national. These regulations aim to prevent the risks that these products can pose for security and human rights. At the same time, they allow the development and trade of these products. Therefore, the exporters of dual-use encryption products must comply with the regulations that apply to their products. They must also assess the impact of their products on security and human rights. The exporters of dual-use encryption products can benefit from the demand and innovation for these products. These products are essential for the digital economy and society. They can also enhance the security and human rights of the exporters, their customers and the public.

Freemindtronic Andorra is a company that specializes in dual-use encryption products. It offers secure and innovative solutions for data, communication and transaction protection. Freemindtronic Andorra respects the export control regulations that apply to its products. It is also committed to promoting and supporting the responsible and lawful use of its products. It follows the principles of security and human rights. Freemindtronic Andorra cooperates with the authorities, the civil society and the international community. It ensures the transparency and accountability of its activities. It also participates in the development and implementation of effective and balanced encryption policies and regulations. It respects the interests and needs of all stakeholders.

Pegasus: The cost of spying with one of the most powerful spyware in the world

Pegasus The Cost of Spying with the Most Powerful Spyware
Pegasus by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

Pegasus: The Cost of Spying

Pegasus is a powerful spyware that has been used by several countries to spy on political figures, journalists, human rights activists or opponents. How does it work, who has been spied on, what are the consequences, and how much does it cost? Find out in this article.

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Pegasus: The Cost of Spying with the Most Powerful Spyware in the World

Pegasus is a spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. It allows to remotely monitor the activities of a mobile phone. According to an investigation conducted by a consortium of international media, several countries have used this software to spy on political figures, journalists, human rights activists or opponents.

The scandal of Pegasus has provoked a global outcry. It has raised many questions about the legality, the ethics and the consequences of this cyber-surveillance. How does Pegasus work? Who has been spied on by Pegasus? Who is responsible for the spying? What are the consequences of the spying? And most importantly, how much does Pegasus cost?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions in detail. We will use reliable and verified sources of information. We will also present some statistics and comparisons to give you an idea of the scale and the impact of Pegasus.

What is Pegasus?

Pegasus is a spyware, also called spy software. It allows to remotely monitor the activities of a mobile phone. It can access the messages, the calls, the contacts, the photos, the videos, the location, the microphone or the camera of the target phone. It can also activate or deactivate certain functions of the phone, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Pegasus: a spyware that raises many questions

Pegasus is a powerful spyware that the NSO group designed. It can monitor and steal data and activities from mobile phones secretly. The NSO group is an Israeli company founded in 2010 by former members of Unit 8200; the Israeli military intelligence service. The company claims that its software aims to fight terrorism and organized crime; such as pedophiles or cartel leaders. It also claims that it only sells it to governments or authorized security agencies; with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The countries that acquire these systems must respect their commitments stipulated in the license.

However, a consortium of international media outlets revealed that many countries have used Pegasus for other purposes. They have monitored various people, including politicians, journalists, human rights activists and political opponents. This raises many questions about the protection of privacy and human rights in the digital age. It also exposes the vulnerabilities and challenges of cybersecurity in a world where surveillance technologies are becoming more powerful and discreet.

Pegasus works by exploiting security flaws in the operating systems of phones, such as iOS or Android. It can infect a phone in two ways: either by sending a malicious link to the target phone, which must click on it to be infected; or by using a technique called “zero-click”, which allows to infect a phone without any interaction from the user.

Pegasus is a very sophisticated and discreet software. It can self-destruct or camouflage itself to avoid being detected. It can also adapt to security updates of operating systems to continue working. According to NSO Group, Pegasus is able to target more than 50,000 phone numbers in the world.

Unveiling Pegasus Attack Vectors: Stealth and Subterfuge in Cyber Espionage

In the Shadows of Cyber Espionage: Pegasus Strikes Unseen

In the realm of cyber espionage, Pegasus has mastered the art of covert infiltration, employing a spectrum of attack vectors designed to leave its targets unaware and defenseless. As a specialized journalist in the field of espionage, we delve into the clandestine world of Pegasus, shedding light on the methods it employs to breach digital fortresses.

Email: The Trojan Horse

Pegasus’s espionage campaign often commences with a seemingly innocuous email. The target receives a carefully crafted message, concealing a malicious payload. This deception operates with remarkable subtlety, bypassing traditional safeguards. Victims unknowingly execute the payload, granting Pegasus a foothold into their digital lives.

SMS Intrigue: Texts That Betray

SMS messages can become instruments of betrayal when wielded by Pegasus. Crafted to exploit vulnerabilities in messaging apps, these seemingly harmless texts harbor malicious intent. Clicking on a compromised message can be all it takes for Pegasus to silently infiltrate a device.

Web of Deceit: Navigating Vulnerabilities

Pegasus’s reach extends into the very fabric of the internet. Web browsers, portals to information and connectivity, can become gateways for intrusion. By exploiting unpatched browser vulnerabilities, Pegasus sidesteps user interaction, infiltrating systems silently.

WhatsApp’s Vulnerable Connection

Even encrypted platforms like WhatsApp are not impervious to Pegasus’s advances. The spyware capitalizes on vulnerabilities in this widely used messaging app. A simple call on WhatsApp can translate into a gateway for Pegasus’s covert surveillance.

Zero-Click: A Stealthy Intrusion

The pinnacle of Pegasus’s subterfuge is the “Zero-Click” attack vector. Unlike other methods, “Zero-Click” requires no user interaction whatsoever. It preys upon deep-seated operating system vulnerabilities. Pegasus slips in unnoticed, operating in the shadows, and evading all user alerts.

The Stealth Within Pegasus: An Unseen Hand

Pegasus’s ability to infiltrate devices without leaving a trace raises profound concerns regarding detection and defense. Victims may remain oblivious to their compromised status, and traditional security measures struggle to counteract this stealthy foe.

Pegasus Continues to Threaten iPhone User Privacy and Security

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital security, the Pegasus spyware remains a significant threat to iPhone users’ privacy and security. Despite Apple’s rigorous efforts to enhance iOS safeguards, the sophisticated surveillance tool developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group has continually adapted, finding new ways to infiltrate the defenses of one of the world’s most popular smartphones.

Apple’s Proactive Measures Against Pegasus

Apple has been at the forefront of the battle against cyber threats, releasing timely security updates and patches aimed at thwarting Pegasus’s advanced techniques. The company’s commitment to user privacy has led to the development of new security features designed to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. However, the dynamic nature of cyber threats, exemplified by Pegasus, poses an ongoing challenge to even the most secure platforms.

The Impact on iPhone Users

For iPhone users, the threat of Pegasus spyware is more than just a privacy concern; it’s a direct attack on their freedom of expression and the security of their personal data. The ability of Pegasus to covertly monitor conversations, access encrypted messages, and even activate cameras and microphones without consent has raised alarms worldwide. This level of surveillance capability not only endangers individual users but also threatens the integrity of global communications networks.

Recent Revelations in Jordan Amplify Global Pegasus Concerns

In 2024, shocking reports emerged, spotlighting Jordan’s use of Pegasus against journalists and activists. This development underscores the pervasive reach of NSO Group’s spyware. Allegedly, the Jordanian authorities targeted individuals crucial to civil society. These actions have stoked fears about privacy invasions and press freedom suppression. Amidst Israel-Jordan tensions, this move signals a worrying trend of using cyberweapons to stifle dissent. Consequently, global watchdogs are calling for stringent controls on spyware sales and usage. This incident not only highlights the urgent need for robust digital rights protections but also raises significant ethical questions about surveillance technologies’ global impact.

India’s Pegasus Scandal: A Deep Dive into Surveillance and Democracy

The year 2023 brought to light India’s alleged surveillance of journalists and opposition figures using Pegasus. This revelation has sparked a nationwide debate on privacy, press freedom, and democratic values. High-profile journalists and political dissenters reportedly fell victim to this covert tool, leading to widespread condemnation. Despite government denials and a lack of cooperation with Supreme Court probes, the issue remains unresolved. Such use of Pegasus not only threatens individual freedoms but also undermines the very fabric of democratic societies. As countries grapple with the dual use of surveillance technologies, the call for transparent, regulated, and ethical practices has never been louder. This situation serves as a crucial reminder of the delicate balance between national security and personal liberties.

How Pegasus spied on the Catalan independence movement and the Spanish government

Pegasus, a powerful spyware designed by the NSO Group, has the capability to clandestinely monitor and steal data and activities from mobile phones. A consortium of international media outlets exposed the fact that numerous countries have employed Pegasus to conduct surveillance on various individuals, including political figures, journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents.

In Spain, the Pegasus scandal unfolded, implicating over 60 individuals associated with the Catalan independence movement. According to a report from Citizen Lab, Pegasus was utilized to target these individuals between 2017 and 2020. In an alarming twist, the Spanish government itself accused Pegasus of spying on its own officials in 2021.

The Catalan independence movement under surveillance

The Catalan independence movement represents a political and social endeavor that aims to secure Catalonia’s independence from Spain. This movement gained significant momentum in 2017 when the Catalan government conducted an unauthorized referendum on self-determination. In response, the Spanish government took action by suspending Catalonia’s autonomy and apprehending several of its leaders.

Citizen Lab’s report revealed that Pegasus had specifically targeted more than 60 individuals associated with the Catalan independence movement from 2017 to 2020. This list includes notable figures such as three presidents of the Generalitat of Catalonia: Artur Mas, Quim Torra, and Pere Aragonès. These individuals have taken legal action, filing a complaint against Paz Esteban and the NSO Group. Paz Esteban serves as the director of CNI, Spain’s intelligence service.

Additional alleged victims encompass Members of the European Parliament, lawyers, journalists, and activists. For example, Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia who sought refuge in Belgium following the referendum, was also subjected to Pegasus surveillance. The list further includes Roger Torrent, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament, and Jordi Cañas, a pro-union Member of the European Parliament.

The Spanish government under attack

The situation escalated in significance when the Spanish government disclosed that Pegasus had also surveilled its own officials in 2021. The government attributed this to an “external attack” but refrained from identifying the perpetrators. Various media outlets hinted at the possibility of Moroccan involvement, occurring against the backdrop of a diplomatic standoff between the two nations.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles were among the primary targets. In February 2021, while on an official visit to Morocco, their mobile phones fell victim to Pegasus infections8. This compromise allowed the spyware access to their messages, calls, contacts, photos, videos, location, microphone, and camera.

Additionally, Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya and Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska faced Pegasus surveillance in May 2021. This intrusion occurred during their management of a migration crisis in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa that witnessed a mass influx of Moroccan migrants.

The outcry of the victims

Those who have potentially or definitively fallen victim to Pegasus expressed their outrage and concerns surrounding this spying scandal. They vehemently decried it as a grave infringement upon their fundamental rights and vociferously demanded both explanations and accountability. Furthermore, they sought access to the findings of the judicial investigation and the data collected by the spyware.

For example, Quim Torra expressed feeling “violated” and “humiliated” by the intrusive spying. He squarely pointed fingers at the Spanish state and demanded an apology from Prime Minister Sánchez. Torra also declared his intent to pursue legal action against NSO Group and CNI.

Likewise, Pedro Sánchez conveyed his profound worry and anger regarding the spying. He committed to seeking clarifications from Morocco and Israel while simultaneously reinforcing his government’s cybersecurity measures.

What are the consequences of the spying?

Spying by Pegasus inflicted severe consequences on the victims, as well as society and democracy. It violated the victims’ right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of information, and presumption of innocence. Additionally, it jeopardized the security, reputation, and well-being of the victims.

Pegasus’ spying activities also eroded trust and cooperation among various actors and institutions. It fostered an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility between Spain and Morocco, neighboring countries with historical and economic ties. Furthermore, it deepened divisions between Madrid and Barcelona, two regions with political and cultural distinctions. The spying undermined the credibility and legitimacy of the Spanish government and its intelligence service.

Moreover, Pegasus’ spying efforts raised awareness and concerns regarding the dangers and abuses of cyber-surveillance. It revealed the lack of control and accountability over the use of spyware by governments and private companies. The spying underscored the necessity for enhanced protection and regulation for human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and other vulnerable groups.

The cost of Pegasus by country: an estimation based on the available sources

NSO Group, an Israeli company specialized in cyber-surveillance, developed Pegasus, a spyware capable of infecting smartphones and accessing their data, including messages, photos, contacts, and location. Pegasus can also activate the microphone and camera of the phone, effectively turning it into a spying tool. But how much does it cost to use Pegasus? And which countries can afford it? This section will attempt to answer these questions based on the available information.

Firstly, the cost of using Pegasus depends on several factors, such as the number of phones targeted, the duration of surveillance, and the type of contract signed with NSO Group. According to The Guardian’s estimate, which relies on internal documents from NSO Group dating back to 2016, a license to monitor 50 smartphones cost 20.7 million euros per year at that time. Similarly, a license for monitoring 100 smartphones cost 41.4 million euros per year. It remains uncertain whether these prices have changed since 2016 or if NSO Group has offered discounts or rebates to certain clients.

Subsequently, the estimated cost of Pegasus by country derives from the number of phones targeted and the operation’s duration, using the average cost provided by The Guardian. These data are approximations and may vary depending on the sources. For instance, Saudi Arabia targeted approximately 15,000 numbers with Pegasus, according to Le Monde, but The Washington Post suggests a figure of 10,000. Likewise, Le Monde indicates that Morocco commenced using Pegasus in 2017, whereas Citizen Lab asserts it was in 2016.

Here is a summary table of the estimates of the cost of Pegasus by country:

Country Number of Phones Targeted Duration of Operation (years) Estimated Cost (in millions of euros)
Spain 60 6 248.4
Saudi Arabia 10 000 5 2070
Azerbaijan 5 000 4 828
Bahrain 3 000 3 372.6
Kazakhstan 1 500 2 124.2
Mexico 15 000 2 1242
Morocco 10 000 5 2070
Rwanda 3 500 4 579.6
Hungary 300 4 49.8
India 1 000 3 124.2
United Arab Emirates 10 000 5 2070

Finally, the total estimated cost of Pegasus for these ten countries would be about 10.5 billion euros over a period of five years.

The cost of Pegasus compared to other indicators

In addition to these estimates, we can also compare the cost of Pegasus with other indicators or expenditures, such as the average income or the budget of a country. This can help us to gain insight into the scale and impact of Pegasus.

For instance, according to Statista, Spain’s average annual income per capita in 2020 was $30,722. El País reported the budget of the Spanish Intelligence Agency (CNI) to be $331 million in 2020, while El Mundo stated that Catalonia’s budget was $40 billion in the same year.

Here is a summary table of the data:

Source Estimated Cost of Pegasus
Le Monde $7 to $20 million per year for 50 to 100 smartphones
TEHTRIS $9 million for 10 targets, $650,000 for a single target
Alain Jourdan $500 million for Spain (Source credibility unclear)
Average Income in Spain (2020) $30,722 per year
Budget of CNI (Spanish Intelligence Agency, 2020) $331 million
Budget of Catalonia (2020) $40 billion

The table demonstrates that Pegasus costs are very high compared to other indicators or expenditures. For instance, according to our previous estimation in the preceding section, Spain would have expended about 248.4 million euros over six years to monitor 60 phones with Pegasus. This amount equals approximately 8 times the budget of the Spanish Intelligence Agency (CNI) in 2020 or about 6% of Catalonia’s budget in the same year. Furthermore, this sum is equivalent to about 8,000 times the average annual income per capita in Spain in 2020.

In conclusion comparison

This comparison highlights that Pegasus represents a significant expense for its users, funds that could have been allocated to other purposes or needs. Moreover, it emphasizes the disproportionate nature of Pegasus costs concerning its victims, often ordinary citizens or government employees.

Assessing the cost of Pegasus with certainty is challenging because it depends on several factors, such as the number of phones targeted, the duration of surveillance, and the type of contract NSO Group signed. To obtain a clearer and more comprehensive view of the cost and scope of Pegasus use, access to NSO Group’s and its clients’ internal data would be necessary.

Statistics on Pegasus: a glimpse into the scale and diversity of Pegasus espionage

NSO Group, an Israeli company specialized in cyber-surveillance, developed Pegasus, a spyware. Pegasus can infect smartphones and access their data, such as messages, photos, contacts, and location. Pegasus can also activate the microphone and camera of the phone, turning it into a spying tool.

But who are the victims of Pegasus? And how many are they? In this section, we will present some statistics based on the available data.

It is important to note that these statistics are not comprehensive, as a sample of 50,000 phone numbers selected by NSO Group’s clients as potential targets forms the basis for them. Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International obtained this sample and shared it with a consortium of media outlets that conducted an investigation. The actual number of Pegasus targets may be much higher, as NSO Group claims to have more than 60 clients in 40 countries.

According to The Guardian’s analysis of the sample:

  • More than 1,000 individuals in 50 different countries have been confirmed as successfully infected with Pegasus.
  • Over 600 politicians and government officials, including heads of state, prime ministers, and cabinet ministers, were identified as potential targets.
  • More than 180 journalists working for prominent media outlets like CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, or Le Monde were selected as potential targets.
  • Over 85 human rights activists, including members of organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were identified as potential targets.

According to Le Monde’s analysis of the same sample:

  • Morocco selected more than 15,000 individuals as potential targets between 2017 and 2019.
  • Mexico selected over 10,000 potential targets between 2016 and 2017.
  • Saudi Arabia selected more than 1,400 potential targets between 2016 and 2019.
  • India selected over 800 potential targets between 2017 and 2019.

Here is a summary table of the key findings from both sources:

Data Source Key Findings
The Guardian (Sample of 50,000 Numbers) Over:

  • 1,000 infections in 50 countries
  • 600 politicians and government officials targeted
  • 180 journalists selected as potential targets
  • 85 human rights activists identified as potential targets
Le Monde (Sample of 50,000 Numbers) Over:

  • 15,000 potential targets in Morocco (2017-2019)
  • 10,000 potential targets in Mexico (2016-2017)
  • 1,400 potential targets in Saudi Arabia (2016-2019)
  • 800 potential targets in India (2017-2019)

These statistics reveal Pegasus surveillance’s extensive reach and diversity, affecting a wide range of individuals and countries with varying motivations and interests. Moreover, they show that Pegasus surveillance has been ongoing for several years without anyone detecting or stopping it.

In conclusion, these statistics provide a glimpse into the scale and diversity of Pegasus espionage. However, they are not exhaustive and may not fully reflect the true extent of Pegasus surveillance. To have a clearer and more complete picture of the victims and the consequences of Pegasus, access to the internal data of NSO Group and its clients would be necessary.

Pegasus Datasheet: a summary of the features and capabilities of Pegasus spyware

Pegasus is a spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, designed for remote monitoring of mobile phone activities. Pegasus can infect smartphones and access their data, such as messages, calls, contacts, photos, videos, location, microphone, and camera. Pegasus can also control some functions of the phone, such as enabling or disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more. Pegasus can infect phones through different methods, such as malicious link delivery or the insidious “zero-click” technique, which does not require any user interaction. The duration and frequency of Pegasus surveillance depend on the contract signed with NSO Group, which can vary from client to client.

Below is a datasheet detailing Pegasus, including price estimates and periodicity:

CHARACTERISTIC VALUE ATTACK VECTOR
Name Pegasus  
Developer NSO Group  
Type Spyware  
Function Remote monitoring of mobile phone activities  
Infection Method Malicious link delivery or the insidious “zero-click” technique Email, SMS, Web Browsing, WhatsApp, Zero-Click
Data Access Messages, calls, contacts, photos, videos, location, microphone, camera  
Function Access Capable of enabling/disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more  
Periodicity Varied, dependent on contract duration and frequency of updates  
Price Estimate $7 to $20 million per year for 50 to 100 smartphones

Assessing the Pegasus Threat Level After Security Updates and Utilizing Anti-Pegasus Tools

Pegasus is a spyware that exploits security flaws in the operating systems of phones, such as iOS or Android. To reduce the level of threat of Pegasus, one of the ways is to update and patch these operating systems regularly, to fix the vulnerabilities that Pegasus can use.

How security updates can protect the devices from Pegasus

In September 2021, Apple released iOS 14.8 and macOS 11.6 as security updates to protect its devices from the zero-click exploit used by Pegasus. Citizen Lab discovered this exploit, called FORCEDENTRY, in August 2021. FORCEDENTRY allowed Pegasus to infect iPhones without any user interaction. Apple urged its users to install the updates as soon as possible to protect themselves from Pegasus.

Google also released security updates for Android devices in August 2021, according to Linternaute. These updates fixed several vulnerabilities that Pegasus or other spyware could exploit. Google did not specify if these vulnerabilities were related to Pegasus, but it advised its users to update their devices regularly to ensure their security.

However, updating and patching the operating systems may not be enough to prevent or detect Pegasus infections. Pegasus can adapt to security updates and use new exploits that security experts have not yet discovered or fixed.

Advanced Detection and Protection Against Pegasus Spyware

In the ongoing effort to combat the sophisticated Pegasus spyware, cybersecurity experts have developed advanced tools and methods to detect and neutralize such threats. Kaspersky, a leader in global cybersecurity, has recently unveiled a groundbreaking approach that enhances our capability to identify and mitigate the impact of iOS spyware including Pegasus, as well as newer threats like Reign and Predator.

Kaspersky’s Innovative Detection Method

Leveraging the untapped potential of forensic artifacts, Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) has introduced a lightweight yet powerful method to detect signs of sophisticated spyware infections. By analyzing the Shutdown.log found within the iOS sysdiagnose archive, researchers can now identify anomalies indicative of a Pegasus infection, such as unusual “sticky” processes. This method provides a minimally intrusive, resource-efficient way to pinpoint potential spyware compromises.

Empowering Users with Self-Check Capabilities

To democratize the fight against spyware, Kaspersky has developed a self-check tool available to the public. This utility, based on Python3 scripts, allows users to independently extract, analyze, and interpret data from the Shutdown.log file. Compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux, this tool offers a practical solution for users to assess their devices’ integrity.

Comprehensive User Protection Strategies

Beyond detection, protecting devices from sophisticated spyware demands a multifaceted approach. Kaspersky recommends several proactive measures to enhance device security:

  • Reboot Daily: Regular reboots can disrupt the persistence mechanisms of spyware like Pegasus, which often relies on zero-click vulnerabilities for infection.
  • Enable Lockdown Mode: Apple’s Lockdown Mode has shown effectiveness in thwarting malware infections by minimizing the attack surface available to potential exploiters.
  • Disable iMessage and Facetime: Given their popularity as vectors for exploitation, disabling these services can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
  • Stay Updated: Promptly installing the latest iOS updates ensures that known vulnerabilities are patched, closing off avenues for spyware exploitation.
  • Exercise Caution with Links: Avoid clicking on unsolicited links, a common method for delivering spyware through social engineering tactics.
  • Regular Checks: Utilizing tools like MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit) and Kaspersky’s utilities to analyze backups and sysdiagnose archives can aid in early detection of malware.

By integrating these practices, users can significantly bolster their defenses against the most advanced spyware, reducing the likelihood of successful infiltration and ensuring greater digital security and privacy.

Technological Innovations in Spyware Defense: The Case of DataShielder NFC HSM

As nations grapple with policy measures to regulate the use of commercial spyware, technological innovators like Freemindtronic are stepping up to offer robust defenses for individuals against invasive tools like Pegasus. The DataShielder NFC HSM Defense, equipped with EviCore NFC HSM technology, represents a leap forward in personal cybersecurity, offering a suite of features designed to safeguard data and communications from sophisticated spyware threats.

DataShielder NFC HSM: A Closer Look

DataShielder NFC HSM Defense utilizes contactless encryption and segmented key authentication, securely stored within an NFC HSM, to protect users’ digital lives. This groundbreaking approach ensures that secret keys, the cornerstone of digital security, remain out of reach from spyware, thus maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive information across various communication protocols.

DataShielder NFC HSM Defense: a solution against spyware

Another technology can help users protect themselves from Pegasus and other spyware. This is DataShielder NFC HSM Defense with EviCore NFC HSM, a solution that effectively fights against applications and spyware such as Pegasus. It is an alternative that secures contactless encryption and segmented key authentication system stored encrypted in NFC HSM. Thus, the secret keys are physically externalized and not accessible to the spyware. DataShielder NFC HSM Defense with EviCypher NFC HSM encrypts all types of sensitive data without ever logging the data unencrypted. The user can encrypt all types of data from his contactless phone in volatile memory, including Email, SMS, MMS, RCS, Chat, all messaging in general, all types of messaging, including satellite, without ever saving his texts unencrypted. DataShielder NFC HSM also works in air gap as well as on all types of NFC, Wifi, Bluetooth, Lan, Wan, Camera communication protocols that it encrypts end-to-end from NFC HSM

DataShielder NFC HSM Defense: additional features

In the Defense version of DataShielder NFC HSM, it integrates EviCall NFC HSM technology, which allows users to physically outsource phone contacts and make calls by automatically erasing the call histories of the phone, including encrypted and unencrypted SMS linked to that call number.

DataShielder NFC HSM also includes Evipass NFC HSM contactless password manager technology. It is therefore compatible with EviCore NFC HSM Browser Extension technology. In particular, it carries out all types of autofill and autologin operations. Thus, DataShielder NFC HSM not only allows you to connect by autofilling the traditional login and password identification fields on the phone, whether through applications or online accounts. But also also and on the types of online accounts (lan and wan), applications, software. DataShielder NFC HSM Defense also includes EviKeyboard BLE technology which also extends the use of keys greater than 256 bit. This virtual Bluetooth keyboard allows you to authenticate on the command line, on all types of home automation, electronic, motherboard bios, TMP2.0 key, which accepts the connection of a keyboard on a USB port. All these operations are end-to-end encrypted from NFC HSM up to more than 50 meters away via Bluetooth encrypted in AES-128.

To encrypt sensitive data from their phone, the user will do it from their secret keys only stored in their NFC HSM. They can also do it from their computer using the NFC HSM. This is possible thanks to the interoperability and backward compatibility of the DataShielder NFC HSM Defense ecosystem, which works independently but is interoperable on all Android computer and telephone systems with NFC technology. For example, users can encrypt files, photos, videos, and audio on their phones without ever exposing them to security breaches on the phone or computer.

This is the EviCypher NFC HSM technology dedicated to the encryption and management of AES 256 and RSA 4096 encryption keys.

Similarly, DataShielder also includes EviOTP NFC HSM technology, also in DataShielder NFC HSM Defense, which secures and manages OTP (TOTP and HOTP) secret keys.

Here are all the links : EviPass NFC HSMEviOTP NFC HSMEviCypher NFC HSMEviCall NFC HSM, EviKeyboard BLE

DataShielder NFC HSM Defense vs Pegasus: a comparison table

Data Pegasus DataShielder NFC HSM Defense
Messages, chats Can read and record them unencrypted Encrypts them end-to-end with keys physically externalized in the NFC HSM
Phone contacts Can access and modify them Externalizes and encrypts them in the NFC HSM
Emails Can intercept and read them Encrypts them with the OpenPGP protocol and signs them with the NFC HSM
Photos Can access and copy them Encrypts them with the NFC HSM and stores them in a secure space
Videos Can watch and record them Encrypts them with the NFC HSM and stores them in a secure space
Encrypted messages scanned from the camera Can decrypt them if he has access to the encryption key Encrypts them with the NFC HSM and does not leave any trace of the encryption key
Conversation histories from contacts stored in the NFC HSM Can access and analyze them Erases them automatically after each call or message
Usernames and passwords Can steal and use them Externalizes and encrypts them in the NFC HSM with EviPass technology
Secret keys of OTP Can compromise and impersonate them Externalizes them physically in the NFC HSM with EviOTP technology

Bridging the Gap Between Technology and Privacy

In an era where spyware like Pegasus poses unprecedented threats to personal privacy and security, solutions like DataShielder NFC HSM Defense emerge as essential tools in the individual’s cybersecurity arsenal. By leveraging such technologies, users can significantly mitigate the risk of spyware infections, reinforcing the sanctity of digital privacy in the face of evolving surveillance tactics.

The level of threat of Pegasus in different cases

The level of threat of Pegasus depends on many factors, such as the type and version of the operating system, the frequency and quality of the updates and patches, the availability and effectiveness of the tools, and the behavior and awareness of the users. It is therefore difficult to measure it precisely or universally, as it may vary according to different scenarios and situations.

However, we can try to give some estimates or ranges of levels, based on assumptions or approximations. For example, we can use a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) to indicate how likely it is for a device to be infected by Pegasus in different cases:

Case Level of threat
A device with an outdated operating system that has not been updated for a long time 9/10
A device with an updated operating system that has been patched recently 5/10
A device with an updated operating system that has been patched recently and uses antivirus software 3/10
A device with an updated operating system that has been patched recently and uses antivirus software and VPN software 2/10
A device with an updated operating system that has been patched recently and uses antivirus software, VPN software, and anti-spyware software 1/10
A device with an updated operating system that has been patched recently and uses DataShielder NFC HSM 0/10

Latest affairs related to Pegasus

Since the revelations of Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International in July 2021, several new developments have occurred in relation to Pegasus spying. Here are some of them:

  • October 2023, The former head of the Spanish intelligence services has been charged with spying on the regional president of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, using the Pegasus software, the Spanish justice announced on Monday. Paz Esteban, who was dismissed last year by the government of Pedro Sánchez after the scandal broke out, has been summoned by the Barcelona judge in charge of the case on December 131. The judge said that the facts reported by the moderate separatist leader have the “characteristics” of “possible criminal offenses such as illegal wiretapping and computer espionage
  • In October 2021, Paz Esteban López, the former head of CNI, was charged with crimes against privacy and misuse of public funds for allegedly ordering the spying on Catalan politicians with Pegasus. She is the first high-ranking official to face legal consequences for using Pegasus in Spain.
  • In September 2021, NSO Group announced that it was temporarily suspending its services to several government clients after being accused of facilitating human rights abuses with Pegasus. The company did not specify which clients were affected by this decision.
  • In August 2021, Apple released an urgent security update for its devices after discovering a zero-click exploit that allowed Pegasus to infect iPhones without any user interaction. The exploit, called FORCEDENTRY, was used by NSO Group to target activists, journalists and lawyers around the world. Apple urged its users to install the update as soon as possible to protect themselves from Pegasus.
  • In July 2021, the French government launched an investigation into the alleged spying on President Emmanuel Macron and other senior officials by Morocco using Pegasus. Morocco denied any involvement in the spying and sued Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories for defamation. France also summoned the Israeli ambassador to Paris to demand explanations about NSO Group’s activities.
  • In July 2021, the Israeli government formed a task force to review the allegations against NSO Group and its export licenses. The task force included representatives from the defense, justice and foreign ministries, as well as from the Mossad and the Shin Bet. The task force was expected to report its findings within a few weeks.

These developments show that Pegasus spying has triggered legal, diplomatic and political reactions in different countries. They also show that Pegasus spying has exposed the vulnerabilities and the challenges of cybersecurity in the digital age.

International Policy Measures Against Spyware Misuse

In a landmark move reflecting growing global concern over the misuse of commercial spyware, the United States announced in February 2024 its decision to impose visa restrictions on individuals involved in the abuse of such technologies. This policy, aimed at curbing the proliferation of weapons-grade commercial spyware like Pegasus, marks a significant stride in international efforts to safeguard against digital espionage threats to national security, privacy, and human rights.

The US Stance on Spyware Regulation

The Biden administration’s policy will potentially impact major US allies, including Israel, India, Jordan, and Hungary, underscoring the administration’s commitment to countering the misuse of spyware. This comes on the heels of earlier measures, such as placing Israel’s NSO Group on a commerce department blacklist and prohibiting the US government’s use of commercial spyware, signaling a robust stance against the unregulated spread of spyware technologies.

Global Implications and Diplomatic Efforts

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement linking the misuse of spyware to severe human rights violations highlights the gravity with which the US views the global spyware issue. The policy introduces a mechanism for enforcing visa restrictions on those believed to be involved in or benefiting from the misuse of spyware, sending a strong message about the US’s intolerance for such practices.

A Step Towards Greater Accountability

By targeting individuals involved in the surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of journalists, activists, and dissenters, the US aims to foster a more accountable and ethical global spyware industry. This visa ban, applicable even to individuals from visa waiver countries, represents an “important signal” about the risks associated with the spyware sector, emphasizing the need for international cooperation in addressing these challenges.

Spyware with multiple detrimental impacts

Pegasus is not only a spyware with a high financial cost for its users, but it also entails, whether it is used legitimately or not, a human, social, political and environmental cost for its victims and society as a whole. It is difficult to precisely quantify the cost of the damages caused by the use of Pegasus due to numerous factors and variables that can vary across countries, sectors and periods. However, we can provide some rough estimates and examples to illustrate the scope and diversity of the impacts of the use of Pegasus.

Financial Cost

The financial cost of the damages inflicted by Pegasus can be measured on several fronts:

  • Cost to Victims: Individuals spied on by Pegasus may suffer direct or indirect financial losses, stemming from breaches of their privacy, disclosure of personal or professional information, manipulation, or theft of their financial or tax-related data. For example, a journalist might lose their job or credibility due to information revealed by Pegasus; a lawyer could lose a lawsuit or a client due to a disclosed strategy, and an activist might lose funding or security due to an exposed campaign.
  • Cost to Businesses: Companies targeted by Pegasus may face direct or indirect financial losses related to intellectual property violation, unfair competition, industrial espionage, corruption, and more. For instance, a business could lose a contract or market share because of exposed bids; its reputation and trustworthiness could suffer due to a Pegasus-related scandal, and its competitiveness and profitability could diminish from a compromised trade secret.
  • Cost to States: Nations subject to Pegasus espionage may experience direct or indirect financial losses tied to sovereignty violations, threats to national security, interference in domestic and foreign affairs, among others. An example includes a country’s stability or legitimacy being jeopardized due to a Pegasus-facilitated coup; a nation losing influence or alliances because of negotiations undermined by Pegasus; or a state’s development or environment suffering from a Pegasus-sabotaged project.

Geopolitical Cost

The geopolitical cost of Pegasus-induced damages can be measured on various fronts:

  • Cost to International Relations: The use of Pegasus by some states to spy on others can lead to diplomatic tensions, armed conflicts, economic sanctions, and cooperation ruptures. For example, the espionage of French President Emmanuel Macron by Morocco triggered a crisis between the two nations; spying on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by China escalated their border dispute, and Israeli espionage of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani compromised the nuclear agreement between the two countries.
  • Cost to International Organizations: Pegasus’ deployment by certain states to spy on international organizations can result in violations of international law, human rights abuses, and hindrances to multilateralism. For instance, spying on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by the United States undermined the organization’s independence and impartiality. Similarly, espionage targeting the International Criminal Court by Israel threatened international justice and peace, while spying on the World Health Organization by China disrupted pandemic management.

Economic Cost

The economic cost of the damages caused by Pegasus can be assessed across different dimensions:

  • Cost to Economic Growth: The use of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on other states or private actors can lead to market distortions, productivity losses, capital flight, and offshoring. For example, the espionage targeting the airline company Emirates by Qatar reduced its competitiveness and profitability. Similarly, spying on the oil company Petrobras by the United States triggered an economic and political crisis in Brazil. Additionally, spying on Mexico’s central bank by Venezuela facilitated money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • Cost to Innovation: The utilization of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on other states or private actors can result in patent theft, counterfeiting, hacking, and cyberattacks. For instance, spying on pharmaceutical company Pfizer by China allowed the latter to replicate its COVID-19 vaccine. Simultaneously, espionage against technology giant Apple by North Korea enabled the creation of its smartphone. Furthermore, spying on space company SpaceX by Russia allowed the latter to sabotage its launches.

Human, Social, and Environmental Cost

The human, social, and environmental cost of Pegasus-induced damages can be measured across several aspects:

  • Cost to Human Rights: The use of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on vulnerable individuals or groups can result in violations of the right to life, freedom, security, dignity, and more. For example, the spying on journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia led to his assassination. Similarly, espionage targeting activist Edward Snowden by the United States led to his exile. Additionally, the espionage of dissident Alexei Navalny by Russia resulted in his poisoning.
  • Cost to Democracy: The deployment of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on political or social actors can lead to infringements on pluralism, transparency, participation, representativeness, and more. For instance, spying on French President Emmanuel Macron by Russia attempted to influence the 2017 French presidential election. Similarly, spying on the Yellow Vest movement by Morocco aimed to weaken the French social movement in 2018. Additionally, espionage against President Joe Biden by Iran sought to infiltrate his transition team in 2020.
  • Cost to the Environment: The use of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on organizations or individuals committed to environmental protection can result in damage to biodiversity, climate, natural resources, and more. For example, spying on Greenpeace by Japan hindered its efforts against whale hunting. Similarly, espionage against the WWF by Brazil facilitated deforestation in the Amazon. Additionally, the spying on climate activist Greta Thunberg by Russia aimed to discredit her climate movement.
  • Cost to Intangibles: The use of Pegasus by certain states or private actors to spy on individuals or groups with symbolic, cultural, moral, or spiritual value can result in losses of meaning, trust, hope, or faith. For instance, espionage against Pope Francis by Turkey undermined his moral and religious authority. Similarly, spying on the Dalai Lama by China compromised his spiritual and political status. Additionally, the espionage of Nelson Mandela by South Africa tarnished his historical and humanitarian legacy.

The Risk of Diplomatic Conflict Arising from Pegasus

The utilization of Pegasus by some states to spy on others can give rise to the risk of diplomatic conflict, which can have severe consequences for international peace and security. The likelihood of diplomatic conflict depends on several factors, including:

  • Intensity and Duration of Espionage: The more extensive and prolonged the espionage, the more likely it is to provoke a strong and lasting reaction from the spied-upon state.
  • Nature and Status of Targets: More important and sensitive targets are more likely to trigger a strong and immediate reaction from the spied-upon state. For instance, spying on a head of state or a minister is more serious than spying on a bureaucrat or diplomat.
  • Relationship and Context Between States: States with tense or conflictual relationships are more likely to provoke a strong and hostile reaction from the spied-upon state. For instance, espionage between rival or enemy states is more serious than espionage between allied or neutral states.

The risk of diplomatic conflict can manifest at various levels:

  • Bilateral Level: This is the most direct and frequent level, where two states clash due to espionage. Possible reactions include official protests, summoning or expelling an ambassador, breaking or freezing diplomatic relations, etc.
  • Regional Level: This level involves a state seeking support from its neighbors or regional partners to bolster its position or condemn the espionage. Possible reactions include joint declarations, collective resolutions, economic or political sanctions, etc.
  • International Level: At this level, a state calls upon international organizations or global actors to support its position or condemn the espionage. Possible reactions include referring the matter to an international court, resolutions by the UN Security Council, humanitarian or military sanctions, etc.

The risk of diplomatic conflict can have various consequences:

  • Political Consequences: It can lead to a deterioration or rupture of relations between the involved states, a loss of credibility or legitimacy on the international stage, internal political instability or crisis, etc.
  • Economic Consequences: It can result in reduced or suspended trade between the involved states, a loss of competitiveness or growth, capital flight or frozen investments, etc.
  • Social Consequences: It can lead to increased or exacerbated tensions or violence among the populations of the involved states, a loss of trust or solidarity, a rise or reinforcement of nationalism or extremism, etc.

Conclusion: Navigating the Pegasus Quagmire with Innovative Defenses

The saga of Pegasus spyware unveils a complex tableau of financial, human, social, political, and environmental ramifications. Pinpointing the exact toll it takes presents a formidable challenge, given the myriad of factors at play. Throughout this article, we’ve endeavored to shed light on the extensive impacts, offering insights and quantifications to bring clarity to this global concern.

Moreover, Pegasus not only incurs a direct cost but also sows the seeds of potential diplomatic strife, pitting states against each other in an invisible battlefield. The severity of these confrontations hinges on the espionage’s scope, the targets’ sensitivity, and the intricate web of international relations. Such conflicts, manifesting across various levels, can significantly strain political ties, disrupt economies, and fracture societies.

In this digital quagmire, the innovative counter-espionage technologies developed by Freemindtronic emerge as a beacon of hope. They offer a testament to the power of leveraging cutting-edge solutions to fortify our digital defenses against the invasive reach of spyware like Pegasus. By integrating such advanced protective measures, individuals and organizations can significantly enhance their cybersecurity posture, safeguarding their most sensitive data and communications in an increasingly surveilled world.

This piece aims to illuminate the shadowy dynamics of Pegasus spyware, drawing back the curtain on its profound implications. For those keen to explore further, we invite you to consult the sources listed below. They serve as gateways to a deeper understanding of Pegasus’s pervasive influence, the ongoing efforts to counteract its invasive reach, and the pivotal role of technologies like those from Freemindtronic in these endeavors.

In a world where digital surveillance perpetually evolves, staying informed, vigilant, and equipped with the latest in counter-espionage technology is paramount. As we navigate these challenges, let us engage in ongoing dialogue, advocate for stringent regulatory measures, and champion the development of robust cybersecurity defenses. Together, we can confront the challenges posed by Pegasus and similar technologies, safeguarding our collective privacy, security, and democratic values in the digital age.

Sources

In crafting this article, we have drawn upon a selection of reputable and verified web sources. Our sources are chosen for their commitment to presenting facts objectively and respecting the presumption of innocence.

This article has been meticulously crafted, drawing upon a diverse array of reputable and verified web sources. These sources have been selected for their unwavering commitment to factual accuracy, objective presentation, and respect for the presumption of innocence. Our investigation delves deep into the complex web of surveillance technology, focusing on the notorious Pegasus spyware developed by NSO Group and the global efforts to detect, regulate, and mitigate its invasive reach. The article sheds light on groundbreaking detection methods, international policy measures against spyware misuse, and the pressing need for enhanced cybersecurity practices.

We analyzed many sources including:

In summary

Additional references from a range of international publications provide further insights into the deployment, implications, and countermeasures associated with Pegasus spyware across various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. These articles collectively highlight the global challenge posed by Pegasus, the evolving landscape of digital espionage, and the concerted efforts required to safeguard privacy and security in the digital age.

Estimating the Global Reach and Financial Implications of Pegasus Spyware

The deployment of Pegasus spyware across various nations reveals not only the extensive reach of NSO Group’s surveillance tool but also underscores the significant financial and ethical costs associated with its use. The following insights, derived from reputable news sources, offer a glimpse into the scale of Pegasus’s deployment worldwide and its impact on targeted countries:

  1. According to the French Le Monde, Saudi Arabia targeted about 15,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The cost of one license can be as high as Rs 70 lakh. With one license, multiple smartphones can be tracked. As per past estimates of 2016, for spying on just 10 people using Pegasus, NSO Group charges a minimum of around Rs 9 crore.
  2. The American The Washington Post reported that Saudi Arabia started using Pegasus in 2018. The FBI also confirmed that it obtained NSO Group’s powerful Pegasus spyware in 2019, suggesting that it bought access to the Israeli surveillance tool to “stay abreast of emerging technologies and tradecraft”.
  3. The British The Guardian stated that Azerbaijan aimed at about 5,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is among the 10 governments that have been the most aggressive in deploying the spyware against their own citizens and those of other countries.
  4. As per the American The Washington Post, Azerbaijan began using Pegasus in 2019. The country has been accused of using the spyware to target journalists, activists, and opposition figures, as well as foreign diplomats and politicians.
  5. In the case reported by the French Le Monde, Bahrain focused on about 3,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country has been using the spyware since 2020 to target dissidents, human rights defenders, and members of the royal family.
  6. Mentioned in the American The Washington Post, Bahrain initiated Pegasus use in 2020. The country is one of the NSO Group’s oldest customers, having signed a contract with the company in 2016.
  7. As disclosed by the British The Guardian, Kazakhstan directed attention towards approximately 1,500 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country has been using the spyware since 2021 to target journalists, activists, and opposition figures, as well as foreign diplomats and politicians.
  8. According to the American The Washington Post, Kazakhstan commenced Pegasus usage in 2021. The country is one of the newest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2020.
  9. According to claims made by the Mexican Aristegui Noticias, Mexico targeted about 15,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is the largest known client of NSO Group, having spent at least $61m on the spyware between 2011 and 2017.
  10. As reported by the American The Washington Post, Mexico began Pegasus use in 2020. The country has been using the spyware to target journalists, activists, lawyers, and politicians, as well as the relatives of the 43 students who disappeared in 2014.
  11. As detailed in the French Le Monde, Morocco focused on about 10,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is one of the most prolific users of the spyware, having targeted journalists, activists, lawyers, and politicians, as well as foreign heads of state and government.
  12. Confirmed by the Canadian organization Citizen Lab, Morocco initiated Pegasus usage in 2016. The country is one of the oldest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2014.
  13. According to findings reported by the British The Guardian, Rwanda honed in on around 3,500 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country has been using the spyware to target dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders, as well as foreign critics and rivals.
  14. As indicated by the American The Washington Post, Rwanda started Pegasus usage in 2019. The country is one of the newest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2018.
  15. In the report from the French Le Monde, Hungary aimed at about 300 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is the only EU member state known to have used the spyware, having targeted journalists, activists, lawyers, and opposition figures.
  16. As conveyed by the Hungarian Direkt36, Hungary initiated Pegasus use in 2018. The country is one of the newest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2017.
  17. As outlined in the Indian The Wire, India directed attention towards approximately 1,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is one of the largest users of the spyware, having targeted journalists, activists, lawyers, and politicians, as well as the leader of the main opposition party.
  18. According to the British The Guardian, India began Pegasus use in 2019. The country is one of the newest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2018.
  19. According to the information provided by the French Le Monde, the United Arab Emirates honed in on around 10,000 phone numbers with Pegasus. The country is one of the most aggressive users of the spyware, having targeted journalists, activists, lawyers, and politicians, as well as foreign heads of state and government.
  20. Confirmed by the Canadian organization Citizen Lab, the United Arab Emirates started Pegasus usage in 2016. The country is one of the oldest customers of NSO Group, having signed a contract with the company in 2013.
  21. According to the European Parliament recommendation of 15 June 2023, the EU and its Member States have been affected by the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, which constitutes a serious threat to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The recommendation calls for a global moratorium on the sale and use of such technologies until robust safeguards are established.
  22. According to the article by Malwarebytes, Pegasus spyware and how it exploited a WebP vulnerability, the spyware exploited a vulnerability in the WebP image format, which allows for lossless compression and restoration of pixels. The article explains how the attackers created specially crafted image files that caused a buffer overflow in the libwebp library, used by several programs and browsers to support the WebP format.
  23. According to the article by ZDNet, ‘Lawful intercept’ Pegasus spyware found deployed in 45 countries, the spyware has been used by government agencies across the world to conduct cross-border surveillance, violating international law and human rights. The article cites a report by Citizen Lab, which identified 45 countries where Pegasus operators may be conducting surveillance operations.
  24. According to the article by The Guardian, Experts warn of new spyware threat targeting journalists and political opponents, a new spyware with hacking capabilities comparable to Pegasus has emerged, developed by an Israeli company called Candiru. The article cites a report by Citizen Lab, which found evidence that the spyware has been used to target journalists, political opposition figures and an employee of an NGO.