19 May 2019, 3:44 pm

Tech Tent – who’s spying on you?

It was the week when we learned that a missed WhatsApp call could plant spyware on your phone and when San Francisco moved to ban facial recognition technology.
On Tech Tent we explore our attitudes to technology which can catch criminals – but also be used to track our every move.
When WhatsApp’s owner Facebook spotted a flaw in the app, which allowed an intruder to plant spyware on a phone with one missed call, it was unusually open about who might be behind it.
The firm briefed journalists that the attack had “all the hallmarks” of a private company that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over mobile phones.
It was widely assumed that the company in question was Israel’s NSO Group, which has previously been accused of selling spyware called Pegasus to agencies which use it to monitor human rights activists.
The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which monitors digital attacks against civil society, has been tracking the NSO Group for some years.
Its senior researcher John Scott-Railton tells Tech Tent that Facebook’s decision to be so upfront about who was responsible, suggests that it was “pretty fed up with the behaviour of the private spyware company”.
He says Citizen Lab had previously seen NSO’s Pegasus spyware used to track dozens of journalists, lawyers and every kind of activist in Mexico, via the old-fashioned method of persuading them to click on a link.