Reality 2.0 Newsletter - August 6, 2021: Pegasus, Stingrays, and Grindr, Oh My!

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A Quick Plug

Episode 80: You’re Being Surveilled. Did You Consent?

Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Kyle Rankin about NSO group and Pegasus, Stingrays and cars, and surveilling priests.

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What is Pegasus?

Last week, we spoke to our favorite security expert, Kyle Rankin, about some recent privacy and security news. In particular, we are all gravely concerned about the recent frightening revelations about NSO Groups’s Pegasus spyware, and its use in targeting journalists around the world. As privacy geeks with journalism backgrounds, this hits close to home, and even worse is the realization that it is possible to violate a target’s device without the target initiating any action such as clicking on a link like you might find in a typical phishing attack. There will also be no indication of compromise. Kyle’s post on the Puri.sm blog goes into further detail:

What’s particularly scary about spyware in general, and is true for Pegasus as well, is that victims have no indication they’ve been compromised. Due to how locked down the iPhone is from the end user, detecting Pegasus in particular requires expert forensics techniques. This has left many at-risk iPhone users wondering whether they too are compromised and if so, what do they do?

We’d encourage you to read Kyle’s post as well as Amnesty International’s full forensic report on Pegasus. And if you are so inclined, you can check your own devices with the MVT tool released by Amnesty International, which is available on github.


Edward Snowden on Pegasus


Check out the episode for our full discussion about Pegasus, law enforcement surveillance technology, and an unfortunate story about a priest on Grindr. Yikes! 

And as always, please let us know your thoughts in a comment, on any of our social outlets, or via our contact form. Thank you!

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This Week’s Reading List

  • Defending Against Spyware Like Pegasus – Purism — What’s particularly scary about spyware in general, and is true for Pegasus as well, is that victims have no indication they’ve been compromised. Due to how locked down the iPhone is from the end user, detecting Pegasus in particular requires expert forensics techniques. This has left many at-risk iPhone users wondering whether they too are compromised and if so, what do they do?

  • Here’s how to check your phone for Pegasus spyware using Amnesty’s tool - The Verge — Amnesty International — part of the group that helped break the news of journalists and heads of state being targeted by NSO’s government-grade spyware, Pegasus — has released a tool to check if your phone has been affected. Alongside the tool is a great set of instructions, which should help you through the somewhat technical checking process. Using the tool involves backing up your phone to a separate computer and running a check on that backup. Read on if you’ve been side-eyeing your phone since the news broke and are looking for guidance on using Amnesty’s tool.

  • Mobile Verification Toolkit — Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) is a tool to facilitate the consensual forensic analysis of Android and iOS devices, for the purpose of identifying traces of compromise.

  • The FBI Is Locating Cars By Spying On Their WiFi — The FBI is using a controversial technology traditionally used to locate smartphones as a car tracking surveillance tool that spies on vehicles’ on-board WiFi.

  • Catholic priest quits after “anonymized” data revealed alleged use of Grindr | Ars Technica — In what appears to be a first, a public figure has been ousted after de-anonymized mobile phone location data was publicly reported, revealing sensitive and previously private details about his life.

  • Secure, Fast & Private Web Browser with Adblocker | Brave Browser — Brave stops online surveillance, loads content faster, and uses 35% less battery.


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