When The Guardian’s head of investigations, Paul Lewis, first told me about a major data breach that suggested authoritarian regimes were possibly using smartphone hacking software to target activists, politicians, and journalists, perhaps the worst. part is, I wasn’t particularly surprised.
The more we’ve learned about global surveillance since The Guardian’s Snowden revelations in 2013, the more the world has become accustomed to the idea that governments, democratic and otherwise, are deeply interested in using technology. and phones in our pockets to stay on top of us.
This week’s revelations, made by The Guardian and 16 other media organizations working with Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organization, illustrate the disturbing way in which journalists, human rights activists, politicians and others may be attacked by spyware or ‘spyware’.
The phone hacking tool, Pegasus, can collect data, record video with a phone camera, covertly activate the microphone, take screenshots and location information, all without the knowledge of the owner. A phone can become infected without its owner even clicking on an incoming call or message.
NSO sells its software to 40 governments around the world (it does not say which ones) and says its purpose is to help them investigate terrorists and criminals. But a leaked list of tens of thousands of numbers, many belonging to people with no apparent connection to crime, and forensic analysis done on some of their phones, suggests that some governments are spying on pro-democracy activists, journalists investigating corruption and politicians. opponents.
Investigations like these are legally tense and technically complex, involving dozens of journalists, IT experts, and in-house attorneys in multiple locations. Those investigated are usually very reserved and have very good financial and technological resources. They don’t want the scrutiny that brave journalists put them through. There can be great danger in posting things that powerful people don’t want published.
And yet, for The Guardian, these investigations are at the heart of our mission. Thanks to our independence, we can investigate boldly, putting the truth before the agenda of an owner, investors or shareholders. And because we are funded by readers, we have been able to keep our journalism open for everyone to read, so when important stories like this come out, everyone can read them.
From the Snowden revelations to our ongoing scrutiny of big technology, The Guardian has a long history of exposing how technology can be subverted to abuse democracy and human rights.
If that’s a mission that you appreciate, please join us today. Your support will empower our journalists to continue scrutinizing governments and others who exploit technology without regard for people’s rights.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism