The suite of spyware tools, which were supposed to be presented to the security cabinet headed by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, included a variety of features sought by police, from eavesdropping on infected people.cell phoneFrom any phone call on the phone, to reading text messages, to turning on the microphone and camera remotely without the phone owner’s knowledge.
The spyware’s report to the cabinet was prepared by then-newly appointed signals intelligence chief Brigadier General Yoav Hassan, a former member of the Israel Defense Forces’ elite 8200 cyber intelligence unit. Under his leadership, and with the assistance of Mossad agents, the unit developed into a quasi-independent, well-defined group.
The unit was spun off from the broader intelligence unit and reported to Police Major General Mani-Izhaki, who was the head of the investigative unit at the time. It’s a police force within a police force, nobody knows what’s going on there, there’s no regulation, no oversight, the tools in their hands are very aggressive and they need to be heavily regulated. In reality, this did not happen.
In response to an investigative report in the Israeli economic daily Calcalist that rocked the nation at the beginning of the year, a commission of inquiry led by Deputy Attorney General Amit Melari sought to examine police use of offensive spyware, specifically PegASUS, which released a report on Monday looking into what happened there. The Merari team concluded that as early as 2016, when Al Sheikh was chief, spyware had been operationally deployed, using techniques beyond its legal authority. The phone data collected exceeds the legal limits allowed by the court order, and the group still holds the information in its cyber unit’s database.
Another capability of the Pegasus spyware mentioned in the report is the interception of incoming and outgoing phone calls. In addition to this seemingly routine capability in the field of intelligence surveillance, there is a capability known in technical jargon as “volume monitoring” that is considered more intrusive. Simply put, it means real-time eavesdropping on the surroundings of the device by remotely activating the device’s microphone. This type of wiretapping requires an order from the district court president or his deputy.
The list of features the police intend to list goes beyond wiretapping, including remote manipulation of cameras on “infected” devices, which is likely to be illegal as the law does not explicitly allow the implantation of covert cameras, certainly not through Hacking the suspect’s mobile device to remotely control the camera. Through spyware, police can gain full access to all files stored on the phone, including those that are end-to-end encrypted.
This encryption technology prevents access to the device’s content through cell phone antennas or other infrastructure. Even if a file is intercepted, it cannot be decoded. However, on a device already infected with spyware, all files became visible. However, sources familiar with the Pegasus spyware said the Pegasus spyware described in the investigation report was a planned version about eight years ago and is apparently an early or demo version of the current software.