What is Spyware?
As the name itself suggests, spyware is a malicious software used to spy on someone’s privacy. It can be used to capture data through screenshots or webcam captures. Another common way is through a technique called keylogging. This technique allows the malicious software to record every keystroke made by the user, which means it can steal your passwords, credentials or any other confidential information.
It is often used to record your phone calls as well or steal your phone contacts information. The use of spyware increased rapidly in 2017 by 30%. Modern day criminals are using this piece of malware as a tool in performing different attacks, including assassinations.
Hiding in the Background
Spyware is not easy to detect because it hides in the background. Many people don’t have a clue that someone is watching them or recording their data right at this moment. However, there are some indicators that can tell you if this threat is hidden somewhere on your device. You PC or mobile device could slow down or freeze from time to time, but this doesn’t have to happen necessarily.
Few days ago, US whistle-blower, Edward Snowden stated that Saudi Arabia used Israeli spyware to track and murder Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Snowden claimed that Saudi used software that was designed by Israeli cyber intelligence company to track and target Khashoggi, which lead to his murder on 2 October inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
He believes that there is no way Saudi Arabia could have known Khashoggi’s plans and movements without using the technology developed by NSO Group Technologies. This company is known for developing the “Pegasus” software which can be used to remotely infect a target’s mobile phone and then relay back data accessed by the device.
It has already been revealed that Saudi Arabia used Pegasus software in October to eavesdrop on Khashoggi’s friend, a 27-year-old Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who was a prominent critic of the Saudi government on social media. The revelation was made by the Canadian research group Citizen Lab. They proved that the software had been used to hack Abdulaziz’ iPhone between June and August this year.
Snowden also reminded everyone that Israel is routinely at the top of the US’ classified threat list of hackers along with Russia and China.
Increased Usage of Spyware
In his speech, Snowden emphasized that Mexico used NSO Group’s most notorious software to target journalists. It is believed that the Mexican government started using the Pegasus software in 2011, which coincided with a dramatic increase in the assassinations of Mexican journalists.
In 2017, Mexico was rated as the second-deadliest country for journalists in the world just behind war-torn Syria due to the high number of murders.
The NSO Group responded directly to Snowden’s claims with assertions that it only sells Pegasus software to clients on the condition that it be exclusively used to investigate or prevent crime and terrorism.
A Killing Device or a Protection Tool?
Even though, NSO Group claims their software is used in preventive purposes, the evidence does not support this claim.
There are many organizations who do not use spyware because they believe these tools and practices cross a legal line. However, not everyone shares this viewpoint. Lobbyists are trying actively to prevent anti-spyware regulation.
Therefore, one question keeps rising. Do governments use this sophisticated software to target dissidents and members of the press rather than criminals or terrorists?