IAS Target

News Paper Article - 06/09/2021

01 Jan 1970

Category : Daily Current Affairs

    Recently Israeli cyber-intelligence firm NSO Group’s spyware Pegasus has sparked several political controversies. But do you know how the hardware of this new software is like? Or the space that Pegasus customers require to install this hardware at their office. Is there a need for a control room and a 24x7 customer support helpline? Is this software comes under warranty? And finally, how much does this software cost and the appearance of its dashboard? Here are answers to such fundamental questions.

    Basic Requirements

    A customer can run the spy operation of the Pegasus only with the software provided by the NSO group that too by setting up a local office. Local support infrastructure is necessary to run this tool. A Pegasus system will require at least two air-conditioned rooms or a large hall of space for set-up. As per the document submitted to the US court, Pegasus would need at least 25 square meters of server space and 100 square meters of operator space. The server room should be spacious enough to house two 42U racks cabinets together with other hardware.
    This space can be increased depending on the scale of operation. To form an integrated system, you will also need monitors, servers, UPS systems, routers, keyboards, processors, wires, and other hardware. In addition, 18 degrees of temperature should be constantly maintained in the room where these hardware are installed. A version of this Pegasus system hardware was also leaked through emails by a Mexico-based private firm and Italian cyber-intelligence company.

    Additional Resources

    Once you have installed the operator and server system, you will need network connectivity to run the software. At least two ISPs(Internet service providers) and two ATMs (Asynchronous Mode) will also be required for this purpose. The Pegasus customer also needs to configure 8 static IP addresses.
    Also, one must ensure that the location is equipped with a stable cellular network with at least -95 decibels of signal strength. It is also expected that government-run Pegasus should have a tower nearby. SIM cards are also needed to run and operate this system.
    Court documents also showed that a Pegasus using customer needs to provide a third party named passport copy, credit card, and the utility bill not in the name of the organization that has both this software. The reason behind this has not been clarified.

    Is that Enough:

    The above-mentioned requirements have to be proved at least 2 weeks prior to the installation of this software. It may take around 15 weeks for the Pegasus system to get deployed. In the first week under the ATP (acceptance test procedure), the NSO group ensure that the concerned person gets approval from the IMOD (Israel Ministry of Defense). In the absence of approval from IMOD, any agreement signed between the NSO group and party will be considered null and void, stating that the company can be a possible threat to Israel.
    During six weeks, local network adjustments, equipment acquisition, and system integration are done. After this, hardware installation and system testing are done. The NSO group also provides basic training to the technical staff to run basic operations and perform minor maintenance. Once all the process is complete and complete license fees are paid, you are then ready to use the Pegasus system.

    Price of Pegasus:

    As per the evidence received from the public domain, the prices of Pegasus may vary as its license is dependent on several factors. The NSO group provides only limited use of the software that can target an only limited number of phone numbers. All such information is provided in the contract.
    As per the documents that were submitted to US court, it took $8 million for Ghana to install the Pegasus system to spy on 25 phone numbers during 2015-2016. The end-user needs to pay an annual support fee, i.e. $176000(22% of system cost) to the NSO group.
    According to the reports of the media Mexico contract worth $32 million to monitor 500 users, and Panama paid $32 million to monitor 150 devices. As per the New York Times report, the NSO group charged $650000 plus 17 per cent of the total amount as annual charges to monitor 10 iPhones in the year 2016. There were several leaked Emails that says that NSO groups also have competitors who provide the same services.

    Terms and Conditions:

    Despite such high fees, there are some additional conditions in the contract. The NSO and the government party use the front face of a different company to sign the contract to keep itself hidden. But NSO recognizes the customer as a Government agency only. It does not allow changing the name of the customer to a third party. They also have to pay taxes on the equipment as per their country norms. The NOC also provide 12-month warranty together with 24*7 customer support. But the warranty does not cover third party installation or conditions of mishandling the system. But the company takes complete responsibility for software updates.
    The company is categorizing its customer in the form of Nicknames; for example, the Indian subcontinent was named ‘GANGES’. AS per citizen labs, Indian telecommunication providers like Bharti Airtel, MTNL, and Hathway were associated with the NSO.

    Is Pegasus Available in Black?

    Due to the complicated design of the software and regular updates, it is nearly impossible that such a similar product can be reformed to be sold in black. But an incident took place in the year 2018 when a former NSO employee tried to steal and sell the program for $50 million. The employee was a senior software employee who was new and worked only for three months. Finally, he was caught and arrested by the police.

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