Governments need to hold NSO's spyware Pegasus accountable: WhatsApp CEO
WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart on Sunday criticized the controversial spyware Pegasus for its alleged role in breaching the privacy of individuals by hacking their mobile phones across the globe. The criticism came after some media publications reported that Pegasus is being used to snoop into digital devices of journalists, politicians, lawyers, and human rights activists in various countries. Here are more details.
'Pegasus is committing horrible human rights abuses'
In a series of tweets, Cathcart said the NSO's spyware "is used to commit horrible human rights abuses all around the world" and it needs to be stopped. Calling the reports "a wake-up call for security on the internet," he urged human rights defenders, technology companies, and governments to work together to increase security and hold the abusers of spyware accountable.
WhatsApp fought against spyware in 2019
Cathcart also highlighted WhatsApp's fight against the NSO's spyware Pegasus. "In 2019, WhatsApp discovered and defeated an attack from NSO. They rely on unknown vulnerabilities in mobile OSes," he said. At that time, WhatsApp and Citizen Lab worked together and found over 100 cases of abusive targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in more than 20 countries, Cathcart added.
Scale of abuse endangers national security: Cathcart
Highlighting the media reports, he said, "But today's reporting shows that the true scale of abuse is even larger, and with terrifying national security implications," adding, "Once again, we urge a global moratorium on the use of unaccountable surveillance technology now."
WhatsApp committed to defend end-to-end encryption: Cathcart
Stating that "security and freedom" depend on how secure our phones and the internet are, Cathcart stressed that governments and companies need to do everything to make it as secure as possible. "That's why we continue to defend end-to-end encryption so tirelessly. To those who have proposed weakening end-to-end encryption: deliberately weakening security will have terrifying consequences for us all," Cathcart said.
Why is Pegasus making headlines again?
Pegasus is a highly-rated spyware—developed by the Israeli company NSO—which is only made available to government clients. It was in the news in 2019 for its use by various governments to track individuals. On Sunday, a leaked list of over 50,000 phone numbers believed to be of interest to the NSO's government clients surfaced in media. The recent developments have sparked a fresh debate.
Indian journalists, Opposition leaders, Cabinet ministers targeted
The list also created an uproar in India as phone numbers of 40 Indian journalists, major Opposition leaders, civil servants, and a sitting Supreme Court judge were reportedly found in the leaked list. However, the Indian government has denied any involvement with the Israeli spyware.