Beyond the cacophony and another washout Parliament session, what is Pegasus actually outside its physical avatar that we are talking about. We talk of it as a tool that relays your data from the phone it has infected to its masters in a nutshell. It can be sold only to governments is the story that has been sold around the globe, for so many years, but the data proves otherwise. How does Israel and NSO ensure that this tool is being used for the right purposes? Who decides the purpose? The world is full of rogue states, they are also independent and sovereign states, they are also but that malware. Who will decide who can buy and on what criteria? And what is the credibility of the country and organization (read Israel & NSO) which takes unto itself super nation powers.
At the heart of it NSO is a business organization. Given the capability of Pegasus we can safely imagine the nature of research and development which would have gone behind it. We are not aware in detail about the creation of this organization, its funding and the assurance it would have had during the course of the malware development. Can this huge investment happen, if the potential market is not visible? The nation-state and business combo of this type is the most lethal combination you can think of. All the controls on this malware have been negated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We all know of the Stuxnet attack on the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility of Iran in 2010 and its impact.
Pegasus is a Stuxnet on mankind. Will the world be able to find out a legal, technical and logical meaning out of it and then be able to control, supervise and monitor it? The history of the world of technologies with destructive bias has a proven negative track record. Going by Pegasus’s antecedents so far, it is not going to be very different. With ransomware and encryption on the one side and all pervasive invasive technology like Pegasus on the other, where do the people go for cover. Given our track record of enforcement, we are well within our rights to have a grave concern. Technology and law have become two distinct entities, putting the two together will not give the same result as in yesteryears.
If Twitters and Facebooks have been able to make a monkey of the world, inclusive of nation states, what damage Pegasus can do, if left to your own imagination. Public domain global social media organizations transform into Black Boxes at the first whiff of resistance, then do you expect NSO to be a transparent business organization. It is difficult to say if this level of journalistic collaborative investigation can be done again on Pegasus. We are about to lose our golden chance at controlling privacy. Where does the line between privacy and freedom come, if it does at all? Even a non-proliferation treaty type of legal instrument might not be able to meet this challenge. Let’s place human life beyond politics.
A COMPROMISED PHONE CANNOT BE OWNED BY A FREE MAN.
The writer — Sanjay Sahay is Ex. IPS (ADGP), IT, Cyber Security & Emerging Technologies Expert, Management Guru, Pro Public Speaker & Writer, Bengaluru