Telegram founder Pavel Durov is not worried that his name is on the list of entities that were targeted through Pegasus spyware. In a lengthy post, Durov said that he knew that one of his phone numbers was among the targets of surveillance tools such as Pegasus since at least 2018. That is because, he said, he got used to being under surveillance ever since 2011, a time when Durov was living in Russia.
An explosive investigation by Amnesty International, reviewed by a consortium of news organisations called the Pegasus Project, earlier this week revealed that Pegasus, a software created by Israel's infamous NSO Group, was used to snoop on the personal mobile phones of over 50,000 individuals, including journalists, politicians, and human rights activists, among others. The list contains the name of the Telegram founder, which means he was allegedly snooped on through the use of Pegasus spyware, the extent of which is not limited to just call logs or text messages, but also the ability to open the camera of the phone remotely to record unsolicited footage.
Durov said that anyone who gained access to his personal data is going to be "utterly disappointed." He added, "They will have to go through thousands of concept designs for Telegram features and millions of messages related to our product development process. They won't find any important information there." Unaffected by this incident, Durov, however, expresses his concern for people who are "far more prominent" than him. Pegasus spyware was found installed on mobile phones of heads of state, such as French President Emmanuel Macron.
Using this incident as another example, Durov has brought the old controversy of the Apple-Google duopoly back. According to him, backdoors in software is going to be a big challenge for people and, since Apple and Google own the world's biggest share of mobile operating systems, it is going to be even more difficult if they bow down to governments or regulators to create backdoors. Durov is vouching for an open ecosystem that can "allow more competition". What Durov has said makes sense because a monopoly or duopoly in the market will leave no option for customers other than surrendering. Worse yet, things can go haywire if the usage of operating systems gets legalised to an otherwise extent.
In the past, Apple had to acquiesce to the demand of the Forensic Bureau of Investigation, which wanted the tech giant to unlock the iPhone of a convict. Apple initially said creating a backdoor would violate its user's privacy that the company promised while selling the iPhone. That is not all. The latest Pegasus fiasco has landed Apple in hot soup over its privacy claims for the iPhone. According to the Pegasus Project's report, the maximum number of affected devices was the iPhone. A zero-click exploit in Apple's iMessage service allowed hackers to target these devices and install the spyware for surveillance. These iPhone models were running the latest iOS 14.6 software, so, clearly, iPhone users are not happy with Apple's overselling of the iPhone.
Durov has previously spoken against the dominance of apps such as WhatsApp, which belongs to Facebook, a social media behemoth that has seen way more controversies than Apple has.
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