Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware reviewed

We look at this interesting, and concerning book. Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware, by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud is available from Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781529094831 £20 hardback.

Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware reviewed

This story is striking, concerning and well told. Created in Israel, ostensibly to help the good guys catch the bad guys. Or at least that is what the founder stubbornly insisted was the case until the company’s final demise. Trouble is, as more and more journalists were targeted, imprisoned, tortured and even murdered by totalitarian and autocratic regimes it was clear that this was not the case at all. Then the company denials were along the lines that they did not know whose numbers were being targeted, except that it was then proved that they did. The final shake of the dice that criticism was clearly driven by antisemitic sentiments.

As always you can argue that the technology is neutral and it is merely the application of it that is problematic. In the case of Pegasus, time and time again, it was used by those who could afford it, to target journalists writing critical articles about their activities. The book follows the familiar style of Watergate-esque research, discovery, leads, analysis and tight deadlines as the bad guys reshaped their story and attempted to cover their tracks.

One thing that might have been worth a little more coverage would have been the subsequent demise of the product and the company. It also leaves the reader in no doubt that even while this particular product is no longer, it is completely possible that there are many other versions out there, silently operating and performing a similar function.

Well worth reading, even if perhaps deeply concerning too.

More about the book

Did you know that a hostile government could take control of your phone without your knowledge? Pegasus is the most powerful cyber-surveillance system on the market – available to any government that can afford its multimillion-dollar price tag. The
system’s creator, the NSO group, a private corporation headquartered in Israel, boasts about its ability to thwart terrorists and criminals. That may be true – but the Pegasus system doesn’t just catch bad guys.

Pegasus has been sold to repressive regimes to spy on thousands of innocent people
around the world: heads of state, diplomats, human rights defenders, lawyers, political opponents, and journalists. Virtually undetectable, the system can track a person’s daily movement in real time, gain control of the device’s microphones and cameras, and capture all videos, photos, emails, texts, and passwords.

This is the gripping story of how Pegasus was uncovered, written by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud, the two intrepid reporters who revealed the scandal in collaboration with Amnesty International and an international consortium of journalists. After a dangerous and secretive investigation, their findings shook the world. Pegasus reveals how thousands of lives have been turned upside down by this unprecedented threat, and exposes the chilling new ways governments and corporations are laying waste to human rights – and silencing innocent citizens.

Laurent Richard is the founder and director of Forbidden Stories, a consortium of journalists that was awarded the 2019 European press prize and the 2021 George Polk award for its work continuing the investigations of threatened reporters. Sandrine Rigaud is the editor-in- chief of Forbidden Stories. Pegasus is their first book.

Advance praise for Pegasus:

‘An alarming and urgent book – an engrossing thriller about cybersurveillance software so sly and powerful that it can take over your cell phone without your knowledge. This is terrifying stuff. Richard and Rigaud reveal how authoritarian regimes can use Pegasus software to spy on dissidents, human rights activists, journalists – and virtually anyone with a mobile phone’

David Zucchino, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Wilmington’s Lie

‘Paced like a thriller, Pegasus reveals a manifested dystopia where repressive governments
purchase digital bolt-cutters to break into the phones of their critics and adversaries. But it also details the power of investigative journalists to expose a twenty-first-century arms market aimed at civil society’

Spencer Ackerman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Reign of Terror

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