The Pegasus nightmare

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint

Relevance: Understanding the potential negative impact of cyberthreats and ways to counter them.

Synopsis: Cyberthreats need to be countered with a deeper understanding of cyber technologies. Short term remedies won’t work.

Background

Pegasus spyware issue has compelled nations to realize the threat posed by such new age weapons.

Must Read: Pegasus spyware issue – concerns & way forward
Negative impact of the cybertechnology

The dramatic technological advances that have widened access to computing and internet have also resulted in few unintended consequences:

  • Privacy has been eroded
  • Internet has become a powerful weapon in the hands of those seeking to exploit its various facets.
  • Cyberweapons: Cyber is often referred to as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space. And cyberweapons are increasingly being deployed to launch remote attacks.
    • Stuxnet worm: U.S.- Israeli effort in 2010 helped in unleashing Stuxnet Worm at the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz, helping disable several hundred centrifuges.
    • Shamoon virus: The virus attack on Saudi Aramco occurred in 2012.
    • The 2016 cyberattack on Ukraine’s State power grid
    • NotPetya ransomware: The 2017 Ransomware attack (NotPetya) which affected machines in as many as 64 countries
    • Wannacry ransomware: A Wannacry attack, in 2017, on the United Kingdom’s National Health Service
    • Series of attacks, in 2021, on Ireland’s Health Care System and in the United States such as ‘SolarWinds’, the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline and JBS, etc.

Israel, identifies Pegasus as a cyberweapon, and claims that its exports are controlled.

Also Read: How does Pegasus work? – Explained
Why we need to act against Cyber threats?
  • Destructive capacity: Cyberweapons have become a weapon of choice even during peacetime. They carry untold capacity to distort systems and structures, civilian or military and, most importantly, interfere with democratic processes, worsen domestic divisions and, above all, unleash forces over which established institutions or even governments have little control.
  • Cyber threats will increase: As more and more devices are connected to networks, the cyber threat is only bound to intensify, both in the short and the medium term. The instruments of everyday use can be infected or infiltrated without any direct involvement of the target. The possibilities for misuse are immense and involve far deadlier consequences to an individual, an establishment, or the nation.
Suggestions

Short term remedies are unlikely to yield results

  • A deeper understanding of cyber technologies is needed along with a recognition of the mindsets of those who employ spyware of the Pegasus variety, and those at the helm of companies such as the NSO.
  • Work needs to be done beyond India’s borders, as the best technology is imported. We urgently need trans-national treaties along the lines of the Paris climate accord to collectively make it difficult for rogue governments and corporations to implement surveillance at scale. A new proposal calls for a multi-pronged approach combining a moratorium on spyware sales until a global export regime is defined.

 

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