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The New Spy Wars


A Pegasus facility in Sapir, Israel

Dozens of countries already have cyberweapons. “Everybody seems to want them,” said Time Magazine's Mark Mazzetti, “and this gives enormous power to the countries who sell them and can use them for diplomatic advantage.”

Credit: Amir Levy/Getty Images

When an Israeli company released a new spyware product known as Pegasus in 2011, it changed cyberwarfare. Pegasus could reliably decipher the communications of smartphones without the phone's user knowing and without the cooperation of AT&T, Apple or any other company.

Mexico's government bought Pegasus — from NSO Group, the Israeli start-up that created it — and used it to capture El Chapo, the drug lord. European investigators used the product to break up a child sex-abuse ring and stop terrorist plots.

But Pegasus also created some problems, and they quickly started becoming clear, too. Governments could use it to monitor and suppress critics and political opponents. Mexico was an example: It deployed the spyware not only against El Chapo but also against dissidents and journalists. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates used it against civil rights activists.

From The New York Times
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