THE “WINGED HORSE” IN THE CYBERSPACE

 

By General Monzer El Ayoubi

Translation: Pierre A. Sarkis

    •  Pegasus, or the winged horse Greek Mythology, is a name of Latin origin given to a constellation located in the celestial North by Greek Astronomer Ptolemy. In their usual act of plagiarism, the Israeli enemy stole the name giving it to hacking and spying software considered the most modern and sophisticated in its capabilities to track phone calls with the location of the caller and the recipient, in addition to reading text messages of the “target phone” while revealing established passwords and what information the applications, such as, “Gmail- Skype- Facebook- WhatsApp- Yelegram…” store, in addition to hacking the electronic iCloud of the victim’s phone.​NSO Technology Group, standing for the first letter of the founders’ first names, Niv, Shalev, and Omri, was able to produce this malicious software and launch it into cyberspace. The group was founded in 2009 with its headquarters and laboratories in Herzlia, located in the middle of the Palestinian coastline. The range of its services as it claims, “to provide technological support to the governments of the world with the aim of fighting terrorism and organized crime.”​The background indicates that its founders are former and current members of the 8200-unit subordinate to two Israeli Intelligence Services, the first Mossad-Aman, is responsible for gathering Signals Intelligence-SIGINT and cyberwar warfare command. The second unit, working on the development of hacking programs, has a crew that includes a group of enemy army officers specializing in Higher Informatics, and some of the staff are dedicated to the tasks of monitoring the “Dark Web”, one of the sources of detection of security gaps for software and applications where hackers sell information about weaknesses in cell phone programs or computers and servers. The enemy government has granted NSO a license to sell Pegasus to Western and Arab countries, as well as, Mexican drug cartels and other groups working for the Israeli Mossad.​Back to the near past, some points can be pointed out: the group’s success in developing the Stuxnet virus, which in 2009 crippled centrifuge control systems necessary for uranium enrichment at Iran’s Natanz facility; WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Israeli company NSO for using Zero Day Vulnerability in Android and electronic deception for the iOS 14.6 program and installing spyware on about 1400mobile phones.
    • ​From another perspective, by accessing social reality lies the question of the importance of the internet in today’s world, as well as, the use of social media by the public and the measure of its use in the balance of right or wrong. In addition, one questions the capabilities of hacking and espionage software, whether in terms of its contribution to toppling governments and regimes and its control over them, or in terms of facilitating assassinations, extortion… The controversial question and its implications are fundamental catalysts for clarification, in short, because it is subject to change with diverse research and objectives according to the modernization and development of technological uses. The objective answer, whether to raise awareness or to warn of an unlaudable slide towards the trap of luring, the so-called Roving in Cyberspace has become a mostly involuntary tool to carry out the plans drawn, and identify targets by intelligence services, Cyber mafia, or hackers, who are able to breach networks and destroy the protective firewalls, have become targets for recruitment and assimilation. 


Alternatively, it is clear that social media of all kinds and diversity has become a tool of media, advertising and guidance whether negative or positive, which is as normal as newspapers and magazines were two decades ago. This is in addition to how students, protestors and opponents of regimes used to express their revolutionary and rejectionist opinions or demands on the street walls, which they chose as their own pages away from surveillance, and paint spray bottles as their efficient ink. Starting with this axiom, social media has become a tool of mass polarization whether in calling for protests, or, in stimulating popular movement in the face of any corrupt or overbearing authority, positive constructive criticism or slander, to the point of violating sanctities sometimes and abusing dignities.

  • ​Next, and what demands caution is the rapid technological development that has steadily provided the potential of electronic camouflage, by establishing different “multi-hosting” sites, and changing their addresses to mislead or to hide perpetrators and plotters whether individuals, intelligence agencies and gangs. This is in addition to use fake links or change passwords, transmission control and IP addresses protocols, as well as, using Subnet Mask.​In a related context, without going further in the informational specialty, the foregoing poses a sustainable dilemma about how Cyber Crime is prevented in the virtual world in view of the rapid and unlimited technological development. In parallel with the real world, where criminals and organized terrorism groups are confronting the measures of security services and the police on the ground with other counter-measures that may sometimes be equivalent or superior to them at other times, the perpetrators of cyberian crimes practice the same tactics but within the purely scientific and technological framework. However, confronting the judicial authorities is a common space between default and reality through the use of evidence of veto or proof, and the adoption of appropriate legal material that can be subject to different interpretations or jurisprudence applied to similar cases by professional defense lawyers to ensure the overthrow of criminal elements or access to punishment.

    ​Spyware has become vital since it was adopted by intelligence services to confront their enemies, and an effective tool against terrorism or gathering information that allows them to know the future policies of countries and their defense capabilities. Without a doubt, its positive side (good or bad) is that governments have stopped paying billions of dollars to develop intelligence services and train agents or recruit informants. In this regard, intellectual and scientific futility is recorded along with an unfortunate interest in preventing the growth and development of intelligence knowledge in the Arab world, as most of these countries are still described as “fat customers” in the market for software purchase wherever its source.

    ​Returning to the Israeli spy program Pegasus, the following can be noted: NSO specializes in phone hacking software, where the victim’s response is not necessary for the success of the breach, but just receiving the call without answering it is enough. The Winged Horse program has demonstrated its superiority over virulent software or other piracy software because of the numerous targeting patterns. Its accidental exposure caused a resounding scandal, for the Silent Hack was complete and over 50000 cell phones belonging to kings and heads of states were hacked, including French President Emanuel Macron, media and political activists. Western newspapers described the spread of the Israeli spy program as “a disappointment over every quest for democracy in the region.”

    ​Finally, the trade-off between the freedom of expression as a human right guaranteed by the international Bill of Human Rights, and violating or defaming users is an existing dilemma that now requires the establishment of international police to combat cybercrime, in parallel with the development of surveillance systems for electronic or information security services, and the modernization of anti-virus, piracy and espionage programs. Keeping in mind the fact that international rules issued by the United Nations organized and specified the reasons for monitoring, legitimacy, necessities and dangers, for censorship in general, or in an absolute way is totally unacceptable.

    ​It is said: the internet is called the web, so it is not surprising that it is filled with insects! ​

    Beirut, 07/08/2021
    Scholar in Security and Strategic Affairs