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Spyware is clearly defined as malicious software designed to access your computer, collect information about you, and pass it on to third parties without your consent. © Free photos:
Azerbaijani journalist Synch Vagifgiz was horrified to learn that his phone had been infected with Pegasus, a controversial spyware whose latest version may not be visible to victims.
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Knowing that all of his cell phone activity could be monitored by state security services was troubling, he said.
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“I was always aware that they could hear our phone calls, but I never imagined that they could access anything via the Internet, they could record voice, record video, listen to everything I had to say,” he said. .
Researchers and journalists working on Project Pegasus, a global investigation into cell phone spies, have uncovered more than 1,000 phone numbers in Azerbaijan, indicating that they are potential targets for state espionage.
For independent activists and journalists like Vagifgizi in Azerbaijan, this is just the latest tool used in the ongoing “long-term” digital surveillance campaign.
A quarter of the number identified so far belong to political activists, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which heads Azerbaijan’s Department of Investigation.
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Pegasus is a type of spyware that infects users’ smartphones. users don’t know this, which means that photos, text messages, passwords, call log locations can be accessed: copied. It can activate the phone’s microphone camera without the user’s knowledge.
The latest version of Pegasus allows a zero-click attack to infect a device without even being able to read the messages sent by the virus.
Amnesty International Security Lab technician Etienne Meyer said they had found evidence of the Pegasus hacking software after it was targeted in 2016 by Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansour. The researchers also know that the iPhone operating system security issues, which require a security update: It was released in 2019 after the attacks on Uyghurs.
“There are very limited solutions that can protect against Pegasus infection, mainly because it can bypass most of the protections offered during civilian security training,” Minier said.
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Pegasus was developed by Israeli technology company NSO Group, which claims that it “helps government agencies prevent, investigate terrorism and crime to save thousands of lives around the world.”
The company doesn’t set prices online, but according to a 2016 New York Times investigation, the creation of a Pegasus master plan would cost customers more than a million dollars, additional payments to follow. ten iPhone spies. or Android users, for example, will be charged an additional $650,000. Clients include countries with poor human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, and Rwanda.
According to the OCCRP, 250 of the 1,000 figures analyzed in Azerbaijan were identified, most of them journalists, activists, human rights defenders, lawyers and their families. While being on the list doesn’t mean that the phone has been compromised, it does indicate that the person is interested in the customer.
Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist whose device was hacked, told OCCRP that no person has been identified so far who poses a threat to national security.
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“There’s no plausible reason to watch them. These people don’t have access to state secrets. “It’s just for extortion purposes,” he said.
There is ample evidence showing the extent of control in Azerbaijan. SMS wiretapping on phones was followed by “these boxes” posted on Azercell, one of the country’s three mobile carriers, in 2008. They enable security services to monitor internet traffic, phone calls, and location data of mobile users. These boxes also allow password interception to be enabled for users whose recovery is linked to a mobile number operated by a local provider via a reset request.
This technology allows countries to access a complete set of data about a specific user, based on their IP address, the mobile operator’s Internet service provider. It also allows state security services to collect all data from telecom providers.
Then, in 2015, Bakcell, one of the three mobile operators in Azerbaijan, purchased “deep packet testing technology from Canadian network company Sandvine.” Until 2017, this technology was used to block access to several independent opposition news sites. .clean.
Azerbaijan: Pegasus Spyware Perfect Fit For Regime Intimidation
In the same year, Azerbaijan passed legislative changes that gave authorities broad powers to block websites suspected of containing obscure, so-called prohibited information.
A June 2001 Presidential Decree required operators and suppliers to install special equipment that would provide access to information for search operations, effectively requiring state espionage.
And in a country where state control over mobile operators and Internet service providers, such as the use of intrusive surveillance equipment, has been established for several years, stolen data is being used as a tool of harassment.
An example is the case of Fatima Movlamli. One of the fiercest critics of the government, he made headlines in Azerbaijan in 2018, when, according to reports, he disappeared after participating in an opposition-led protest rally in March.
Center For International Media Assistance
When Movlamli’s relatives called the Interior Ministry, they were told they had no information on his whereabouts. In fact, Movlamli was arrested by the anti-trafficking department at the ministry and was not found for five days. During that time, she was physically abused and threatened with rape if she did not sign a confession accusing her of engaging in prostitution. He was 17 years old at the time.
Efforts to tarnish his image include intimate photos on social media. This is not the last time he has been targeted. A fake Facebook profile created in his name in 2019 was used to share Movlamli’s private photos and videos. In July 2020, Movlamli’s Facebook profile was hacked, and in 2021, several Telegram channels shared Movlamli videos of intimate photos of other feminist activists:. A fake Facebook page advertises Movlamli’s phone number for an escort service.
The data appears on more than 1,000 phone numbers discovered by OCCRP. Even though his name and number appeared on the target list, his device showed no signs of infection.
Meinier stressed that even given the invisible nature of the Pegasus attack, journalists and activists still need to take digital security measures to prevent less sophisticated threats.
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“Traditional digital security offerings, such as the use of end-to-end encrypted communications applications, the Tor browser, 2-step verification, are still possible, as most attacks are less sophisticated than Pegasus,” he said.
“In the bigger picture, this means that digital security trainers will need to adapt their content to include a similar Pegasus virus… on their device data.
This publication is part of the Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project, which is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A Ukrainian official works to list the bodies of 58 civilians who died in and around Bucha before being transferred to a cemetery in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 6, 2022. © Chris McGrath / Getty Images
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Women break their fast in front of the Hagia Sophia on April 13, 2021 in Istanbul, Turkey. © Chris McGrath / Getty Images If you’ve grown up in the last four months or so, you’re probably familiar with the pop-up box that requires permission to use your device’s microphone or camera. How else are you supposed to see or hear the person on the other line?
However, this permission could be the more unfortunate side. Some apps don’t bother asking for your approval at all, turning your device into a pocket spy loaded with cameras and microphones.
Back in 2018, for example, on the Google Play Market App Store, more than 250 apps listened to background noise through smartphone microphones, allowing apps to know what you were watching or listening to in order to show better targeted ads. And then, of course, there’s the old conspiracy theory that our smartphones are actively eavesdropping on us.
I’m well . There are some simple precautions you can take to protect your privacy. Avoid warnings. The following tips will only take a few seconds.
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This is a pretty quick workout for personal safety, it can really surprise you. For example, when I checked which apps had microphone permission on my Google Pixel 3a, I found that 16 out of 52 possible apps were available.
Or no licensed app really surprises me. Android Auto, Google Duo’s native camera app is to blame, some of the apps I turned down but were able to grant permission for were worrying. Why would I really want to hand over those benefits to the American Eagle app or, for example, the HelloFresh app?
Settings > Notification App > Scroll down click Advanced > Permission Manager >
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