Pegasus Spyware: What is Pegasus Scandal?, Project

By Ritesh|Updated : July 27th, 2022

Pegasus Spyware is malicious software that is designed to infect a deceive, gather sensitive data, and send it to a third party without the user's consent. This Pegasus spyware was developed by an Israeli firm, NSO Group to infiltrate Android and ios and use them as surveillance devices. Pegasus is a part of the Cyber Security section under the UPSC Syllabus which makes it a crucial topic for the GS Paper-3.

UPSC aspirants preparing for the upcoming exam must be aware of all the facts, and details associated with Pegasus spyware. In this article, we have covered everything about Pegasus spyware that would help the UPSC aspirant in their preparation.

Table of Content

What is Pegasus Spyware?

The Pegasus is spyware that was developed by an Israeli firm, the NSO Group in 2010.

  • This spyware was first discovered in an iOS version in 2016 and it was a little different from the android version,
  • The Pegasus spyware was able to read toe SMS, and emails, take screenshots, access contacts, and browser history, and listen to calls of the victims.
  • Hackers can hijack the phone's camera and microphone as well, and turn it into a real-time surveillance device
  • Pegasus is also able to send back the hacker the target's data, including passwords, contact lists, live voice calls, text messages, and calendar events from the popular mobile messaging apps.
  • It is used as a tool to track terrorists and criminals for targeted spying.
  • The NSO Group has stated that it sells this spyware only to the governments.

>> Download Short Notes on Pegasus Spyware

How Does Pegasus Work?

Pegasus spyware exploits undiscovered issues or bugs. Due to this, the phone can be infested even if it has an updated security system.

  • In 2016 smartphones were infected with a technique called spearfishing. In this method, the emails of text containing a malicious link were sent to the target phone, and then it was activated when the target clicked the link,
  • In 2019, Pegasus evolved and interaction was not required by the target. Pegasus was able to infiltrate a device with a missed call on WhatsApp, and delete the record as well which would make it impossible for the user to find out that he/she has been targeted.
  • In the same year, WhatsApp said Pegasus exploited a bug in its code to infect more than 1400 iPhones and Android Phone but it soon fixed it,
  • Pegasus can be installed over the wireless transceiver located near a target as well.

Targets of Pegasus Spyware

The media outlets revealed that they have found more than 1000 people in over 50 countries whose number was on Pegasus's list.

  • More than 180 journalists were found on that list from organizations including New York Times, CNN, and Al Jazeera.
  • according to reports, many numbers were clustered in 10 countries-, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Rwanda, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates,
  • Various governments used Pegasus to spy on government officials, journalists, opposition politicians, activists, and others.
  • An investigation also revealed that the Indian government used Pegasus to spy on around 300 people between 2017 and 2019.

Government's Stand on Pegasus Spyware

The government refused to say anything against the allegations made by the petitioners citing national security as a reason.

  • The government again pled to set up its own probe. But the court rejected it.
  • As per the court, such a course of action would violate the settled judicial principle against bias.
  • The supreme country highlight three crucial imperatives- The right to privacy, freedom of the press, and Limits on the usage of national security as a shield,
  • The court also asked the committee to make recommendations on a policy framework on cyber security to make sure the privacy of the citizens will be protected.

NSO's Stand on Pegasus Controversy

According to NSO, its only motive was to sell Pegasus only to law enforcement and intelligence team government so that they can prevent crime and terror attacks efficiently. NSO also said, it doesn't operate the system and it has no visibility of the data. So it has no part to play in the Pegasus issue.

Pegasus Issue in India

As per a report by the New York Times on 31st January 2022, India has brought Pegasus in 2017 as a $2-billion defence package.

However, this statement has refused the claims. Additionally, the nodal agency and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team deal with cybersecurity issues and have said nothing on this matter.

The court constituted a technical committee to examine the Pegasus controversy and to examine if the spyware had been used on Indian citizens. In May 2022, the committee placed an interim report before the court and asked for time for placing the final report.

Pegasus- Way Forward

The need for judicial oversight over surveillance systems and judicial investigation into Pegasus spyware is essential.

  • The national security states with securing the smartphone of every Indian citizen rather than deploying spyware on them. Government must recognize it,
  • The crucial part of the fundamental right is privacy,
  • The government must take measures so that the spyware won't be misused by any intelligence institution or political party.

Pegasus UPSC

Candidates preparing for the UPSC Exam must have an idea about cyber security as it is a part of the UPSC Syllabus. Pegasus finds its relevance in cyber security and cyber warfare which makes it an important topic for both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains examination. That's why candidates need to have in-depth knowledge of Pegasus spyware. In this article, we have covered all the important information on Pegasus which would be helpful for UPSC Preparation. Additionally, candidates can boost their preparation with the help of the right UPSC Books, and UPSC Previous Year Question Papers.

>> Download Pegasus Spyware UPSC Notes PDF

Other Important UPSC Notes
Ujjawala SchemeNational Investigation Agency
Ganga River SystemCentral Information Commission
International OrganizationsLokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013
Women EmpowermentRepresentation of Peoples Act 1951
Brahmo SamajBattle of Plassey 1757
Asia Pacific Economic CooperationCentral Vigilance Commission
Atal Pension YojanaArya Samaj
CommunalismDemographic Dividend
Mid Day Meal SchemeSecularism

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FAQs for Pegasus Spyware

  • Pegasus Spyware is malicious software that is designed to hack the sensitive data from the target’s phone. It was developed by NSO Group in 2010.

  • As per an investigation the Indian government used it to spy on around 300 people between 2017 and 2019.

  • An international investigative journalism effort revealed that various governments used the software to spy on government officials, activists, opposition politicians, journalists, and many others.

  • Pegasus malware is spyware. It is able to hack any iOS or Android device and steal a variety of data from the infected device.

  • Pegasus is a spyware that is used to access a target’s text messages, photos, emails, videos, and contact lists, and can record phone calls.

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