This week the cybersecurity is on the lips of all politicians, and no wonder: according to an investigation carried out by The country Y The Guardian, the mobile phone of the president of the Parliament of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, would have been the object of espionage between the months of April and May 2019 -as well as that of a hundred personalities of civil society around the world-.

The seriousness of the matter escalates when it is explained who is behind it, since the tool used to enter the smartphone from Torrent was Pegasus, un spyware or spy program of the Israeli company NSO Group that can only be bought by governments and security forces of the State.

“There is no evidence that the security forces of the Spanish State are clients of NSO”, states El País, which on the contrary indicates that the National Police and the CNI they did hire, at least until 2015, their main competition, the Italian company Hacking Team, “according to 400 gigabytes of internal emails from this company that surfaced after a ‘hack’ to their servers in 2015.”

What programs does Pegasus attack?

Pegasus allows, research shares, “listen to conversations, read messages, access the hard disk, take screenshots, review the browsing history, and remotely activate the camera and microphone of the devices ”. It even works with encrypted voice calls and messages.

What’s more, said the Financial Times In 2019, the Israeli company assured its clients that it was capable of extracting all the data of a person from the clouds from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.

For his part, Torrent declares that he “noticed strange things” and thatthat his WhatsApp messages were deleted and conversation histories. “It didn’t happen to people around me,” he says, also explaining that in 2019 he also received “strange messages SMS”.

How does this spyware infect phones?

The Speaker of Parliament, Roger Torrent.

It is malware take advantage of a WhatsApp security flaw to sneak into devices. According to the company itself, the attack was initiated through a missed video call “that did not require an answer” on the platform.

According to the director of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, “this video call didn’t even need to be picked up, the user received what seemed like a normal call that was not such through which a malicious code was already transmitted that infected the phone with spyware”.

Nevertheless, indicate from La Vanguardia, the software it also uses “an old social engineering technique” to hack into devices. User receives an eye-catching SMS message where you are invited to follow a link. If you click, Pegasus will have a free hand.

What has WhatsApp done about it?

Juan Carlos Campo appears before the Justice commission

Once the problem is detected, WhatsApp denounced NSO Group for using its app for spying up to 1,400 people. He then contacted the Canadian cybersecurity group Citizen Lab to investigate the failure of the app from instant messaging, providing him with the numbers attacked by the Israeli cyberspy program.

Citizen Lab figure at 130 people who have been “unjustified victims” of the NSO program since 2016. “The Israeli company refuses to clarify whether Spain is in its client portfolio”, Says the investigation of the Spanish and British media.

As John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Citizen Lab, explains to El País, “it is possible to confirm that the phone [de Torrent] was targeted by Pegasus. However, further investigation would be necessary to find out if it was hacked. There is no reason to think that it was not like that ”.

Torrent will arrive "until the end" after knowing the espionage of his mobile

Pegasus is not new

It is a controversial software that began to be talked about in 2016, when Lookout and Citizen Lab researchers discovered an active threat that used several critical ‘zero-day’ vulnerabilities for iOS.

But its trajectory begins in 2010, the year in which the company was founded. NSO Group, whose dedication is to develop sophisticated malware for governments that need to target certain smartphones. According to the official speech, the company it only sells its Pegasus software to governments and state security bodies “to combat crime and terrorism”.

Other attacks on Catalan politicians

Torrent would not be the only one to have been a victim of Pegasus: according to the lawyer of Anna Gabriel, a former CUP deputy, her mobile could also be ‘hacked’, although it has not been confirmed.

Torrent and Maragall in the Parliament, this Wednesday.

The one that has been confirmed is the case of Jordi Domingo, employee of the Tarragona Provincial Council, as EL PAÍS and The Guardian have credited. “Citizen Lab researcher John Scott called me last October to inform me that my mobile phone was hacked before 2019,” admits this member of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and PDCAT activist.

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