New spyware is picking up where Pegasus left off

Briefly: Multiple governments have purchased advanced spyware from Israel-based QuaDream, according to a new report from Microsoft and Citizen Lab. QuaDream’s proprietary product, Reign, is a “zero-click” software that allows users to hack iPhones without any action from the target.

QuaDream was founded by former employees of the now-notorious NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware was a favourite for governments all over the world. Some clients deployed Pegasus to support law enforcement; most didn’t.

For example, NSO clients targeted dozens of Mexican journalists with the spyware, and in one case, hitmen used Pegasus to geo-locate and assassinate an anti-corruption reporter. By 2021, the US had blacklisted NSO, and last month it blocked US agencies from using spyware as a law enforcement tool.

Intrigue’s take: Be honest: if you were offered Reign’s power of omniscience (for the low price of around $2.2M per year), would you take it? It seems plenty of folks out there are answering yes, and not all of them are as benevolent as you.

So, if this spyware is both objectionable and yet irresistible, then Big Tech might be our best hope: staying ahead of spyware to render it obsolete. Otherwise, there’s not much stopping Reign from reigning supreme.

Also worth noting:

  • Apple says it’s aware of spyware like Reign and has hardened its security protections.
  • Clients in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ghana, Israel, Mexico, Romania, Singapore, the UAE and Uzbekistan have all allegedly purchased Reign.
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