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Can Israelian Computer Engineers Create a Zero-Click Surveillance Tool and Have Good Ethics?

By: Adam Button

Cybersecurity is being tested. With the world becoming more technological by the hour and smartphones in the hands of 97% of Americans today. Protecting yourself from cyber threats has become very prevalent. The question is what are the threats out there?

Before we get to NSO’s Pegasus Project, let’s go through the more understandable threats you could get today. Most visible cybersecurity threats include scammers either contacting you through email, phone calls, or text.

Every company has policies that state they will not ask for some significant information over calls or text. So, an easy way to get past these scammers is not to acknowledge them because if you get scammed by them, your information will be relayed to other scammers as an “easy target”.

Other trickier security issues include the links you can click on. Either in emails or text messages, these links could lead to malicious websites that can take your information without you not need to do anything. These are called One-Click Attacks. If you get a link from someone you did not expect or know, a good rule is to not click it.

Zero-click attacks are possible, which is the main problem with cybersecurity today. There is an Israelian group, called NSO, that has created a program that can crack into any smartphone. This can allow the owner of the program to spy on individuals with their own phones. Cameras, microphones, phone calls, text messages, emails, anything on the smartphone could be used by the program.

With this program, NSO decided to only sell the program to certain countries, and not even allow any company or individual to have the program. This ethical decision benefits the overall population’s privacy rights but does not benefit NSO’s finances that well. Even the United States was a client of theirs. However, in past years they have left their service and banned any NSO programs in America.

With such power as this program gives, it can be a nightmare to secure your own phone. There are services out there called VPNs that encrypt all of your data. Making it safer overall but with programmers and hackers out there, eventually, some backdoor could be found.

If you are interested in the NSO Pegasus Program, NYTimes Magazine did a story on it. Link to it here.

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