Yes, there is a horse, it is not Mr. Ed, there is no kind conversation. This one has wings, and there are a few versions, including the off-spring of Lord Poseidon. Whether we believe Hesiod or not, it does not matter. Pegasus became a part of our oldest mythological stories. Yet today, Pegasus is something else, a figment from the imaginations of the NSO group and it was made real. It has been out for some time and last week we got the media and their overemotional response that it had a connection to 50,000 people, with 0.36% of these people journalists.
So what gives?
It is important to look at a few sources. The first is the BBC (at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-57922543) who gives us ‘Princess Latifa and Princess Haya numbers ‘among leaks’’, perhaps yes, perhaps no, who cares? We do get “The discovery of the princesses’ phone numbers on the list – and those of some acquaintances – has raised questions about whether they could have been the possible target of a government client of the group.” And here the questions start and the BBC is not asking them. Just like it is steering clear of alleged man-slaughterer Martin Bashir. So when we see ‘could have been the possible target of a government client of the group’ could is here the operative word. You see, no one is doubting that list, no one has given us a clear rundown of the names, a dashboard if you like, with the option to drill per nation and per class of person. This could all be a ruse of anti-Israeli groups, optionally the ruse of a competitor. And when we see “NSO has denied any wrongdoing. It says the software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists, and is made available only to military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies with good human rights records”, so which government leaked the list and how did THAT government leak what is implied to be a complete list? Then we get to the option that the leak came from within the NSO Group, which might be the most ludicrous thought, but I tend to look at all angles, so it is an angle that is most unlikely, but the chance is not zero. The article is all about Princess Latifa, not much about the NSO Group, it is an emotional lamentation to steer clear of massive screw ups like Jimmy Savile, Lord McAlpine, Sir Cliff Richard, and Lady Diana Spencer. As some say, the credibility of the BBC has never been lower.
The second article is also from the BBC (at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57922664) less than a day ago gives us ‘Pegasus spyware seller: Blame our customers, not us, for hacking’. Here we are given “Investigations have begun as the list, of 50,000 phone numbers, contained a small number of hacked phones”, silly me for thinking that when we see ‘Investigations have begun’, we also get ‘a small number of hacked phones’, as such there is a much larger stage, and the BBC gives us “Pegasus infects iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras”, so if there are only a small number of hacked phones, how does that part matter? And when we get “a consortium of news organisations, led by French media outlet Forbidden Stories, has published dozens of stories based around the list, including allegations French President Emmanuel Macron’s number was on it and may have been targeted.” We get the real deal, a consortium of news organisations, led by Forbidden Stories hide behind ‘allegations’ and ‘may have been targeted’. Is anyone catching on? The media want to create emotional waves, yet does not want to be held accountable for their actions. The stakeholders are key here. A ‘consortium’ implies shareholders and stakeholders. It implies also that their issue is not that the NSO Group might do something outside of governments, it might show that the media does a lot more to anger the audience it desperately needs.
And then the media does one more jab towards a currently missing journalist no one cares about with “including those close to murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi”, this is the emotional stage handed to us. It is “67 agreed to give Forbidden Stories their phones for forensic analysis. And this research, by Amnesty International Security Labs, reportedly found evidence of potential targeting by Pegasus on 37 of those”, so out of 50,000 we see that 67 are investigated and potentially we see 37 are targets, but there is no evidence that the NSO Group did this, these 37 might have been targets of the NSA or even the DGSE.
And at this point there is one interesting flaw. If it was me, the first think I did was set up a dashboard that allows us to see where these 50,000 names are part of, where they are and how they were hacked. They have had a week and the stretch of media that gives us emotion after emotion is a much larger stage of stakeholders that need a negative view to be pushed onto the NSO Group. I admit that my view is equally speculative, but is it a wrong view?
Finally there is the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/jul/22/israel-examine-spyware-export-rules-should-be-tightened-nso-group-pegasus) where we see ‘Israel to examine whether spyware export rules should be tightened’. Here we are treated to “An Israeli commission reviewing allegations that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was misused by its customers to target journalists and human rights activists will examine whether rules on Israel’s export of cyber weapons such as Pegasus should be tightened”, I can accept that view, but that also means that governments are largely to blame for this mess, if the list is real that is. There is every chance that this was a ruse to make the NSO Group less large, less of a challenge to a competitor and this is exactly what stakeholders tend to do, and using the media as their bitch is not out of the question.
My view is reinforced by “NSO has said Macron was not a “target” of any of its customers, meaning the company denies he was selected for surveillance using its spyware, saying in multiple statements that it requires its government clients to use its powerful spying tools only for legitimate investigations into terrorism or crime”, so as Macron was never a target, the BBC articles are less than accurate and that leaves the media open to all kinds of attacks. Yes, I will admit that it is a he said she said setting (she being the media), but that also means and implies that the NSO Group is not out of the woods at present. And let’s be honest, who needs a tool like this to keep track of the Dalai Lama? The man is out there in nowhere land and when he is travelling we see 50-150 reporters surrounding him, all ways to keep track, no NSO Group required.
As we see the horse Pegasus go on a course towards the government destinations, I see less of an issue with the NSO Group and a hell of a lot more with the Stakeholders who do not have the ideas, the innovations, but they really like the money attached to it. Do you still think I am on the wrong horse track?
There is always the time will tell part, but consider that if the media has not released a dashboard of these 50,000 numbers, I believe that my case is rather clear, I would personally consider that list is nothing more than the fabrication of a stakeholder who needs the revenue that the NSO Group currently has.