Sachin Kumar is the VP of Technology, at eSec Forte Technologies. He has prior Experience with Verizon Communications and KPMG Associates as Information Security Specialist. Sachin has been involved in several projects with the government as well as Private Enterprises
Few weeks back, the world was yet again shocked to learn about the presence of a malicious and potent spyware called Pegasus. It comes from an Israel-based company called NSO Group, and this isn’t the first time when the software has made global headlines. Pegasus can be covertly installed on mobile devices running multiple versions of Android and iOS.The spyware can be injected in your device using a simple link shared via an SMS or an email. In fact, hackers can remotely deploy the spyware into the targeted device.
The spyware, when enabled, allows the attacker to read messages, track calls, gather passwords, get location and browse through the photos or videos stored on the device and even get hold of all the contacts saved by the user.
Experts believe that the use of such sophisticated spyware has specific targets. But in this day and age, when digital mediums are a constant part of everyone’s lives, it is hard to ignore the possible impact of such tools.
Lack of Trust
Most of the apps used by people employ high-level encryption which means only the sender and the receiver can view the message. However, when you bring surveillance tools like Pegasus into the equation, things change. Spywares like Pegasus can allow hackers to control your mobile devices’ microphone or camera or even read your messages.
Such incidents are bound to make you question the use of technology and digitization. Now, Pegasus might not affect the common man, but what is stopping an adversary from deploying commonly available spywares to spread a wider surveillance net? It is imperative that people understand their role and keep their data safe and protected.
Convenience at a high cost
Technology has made our lives easier, and in many ways convenient. With a single tap you can book a cab, or order your favourite dish. The emergence of voice assistants means you don’t even need to touch your phone to get actions done. With such a high level of dependence, the chinks in the armour have started showing up.
Convenience comes at a cost. The role of social media has gone beyond just connecting with someone. It’s about shaping your digital persona that helps these companies target you individually. And spyware is the peril that has borne out of technology that we use every day.
The gates have just opened
The infrastructure cost involved to set up Pegasus is huge. This spyware is only sold to government agencies by NSO Group and a proper IT facility and data centres are required to make Pegasus work. As per past estimates quoted in this New York Times article, the expense is pegged at around Rs 8 crore to snoop on just 10 people. Given the costs associated with running Pegasus, it goes without saying that its operators will choose High Value targets only.
Do we have a choice?
Well, the simple answer would be no. Our dependence on technology has put us in a precarious position for good. And experts are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many such tools are likely to prosper,Privacy has become a double-edged sword in all aspects. You might say that detaching from technology i.e. smartphones can be a clever way to avoid being surveilled. But use of a feature phone is clearly not the way out, especially when surveillance through such devices is easier and less complex. At the end, it’s going to be about your digital mannerisms, awareness and lack of suspicion that gets you scot-free.