Pegasus Book Summary - Pegasus Book explained in key points

Pegasus summary

Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud

How a Spy in Our Pocket Threatens the End of Privacy, Dignity, and Democracy

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What is Pegasus about?

Pegasus (2023) follows the thrilling, worldwide investigation into one of the most powerful and insidious pieces of cyber surveillance software known to date. Beginning with a massive data leak to a small, independent news outlet, it tells the story of how Pegasus came to be, the hundreds of innocent individuals who have had their privacy taken away by it, and the global team of reporters and editors who risked everything to bring the story to light.

About the Author

Laurent Richard is a French journalist and cofounder of Forbidden Stories, an organization dedicated to continuing and publishing the work of other journalists who have been murdered, jailed, or threatened. He has been conducting international investigations for over 20 years, and in 2018 he was named “European Journalist of the Year” at the Prix Europa in Berlin.

Sandrine Rigaud is a French journalist and editor of Forbidden Stories. Apart from her work on the “Pegasus Project,” she has also published the “Cartel Project,” a collaboration to finish the investigation of a murdered Mexican journalist. She has reported from all over the world, including Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Qatar, and Bangladesh.

Table of Contents
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    A leaked list set the Pegasus investigation in motion.

    In 2020 a top-secret meeting took place in a small rented apartment in East Berlin. Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud – investigative journalists from the independent French journalism network Forbidden Stories – were asked to turn off their phones, put them in the next room, and close the door.

    These precautions might seem dramatic, but the hosts of the meeting – Claudio Guarnieri and Donncha Ó Cearbhaill from Amnesty International’s Security Lab – could take no risks with the data they were about to share.

    They had a leaked list. On that list were about 50,000 private phone numbers which they believed had been selected as potential targets for the state-of-the-art cybersurveillance program, Pegasus. Someone wanted access to these phones, and they didn’t want the owners to know.

    The existence of this technology wasn’t new information. The for-profit Israeli company which created it – NSO – claims that the software is only licensed to government agencies, for the purpose of fighting crime and terrorism. It’s easy to take down cartel leaders, drug smugglers and pedophiles when you have a copy of their phone.

    However, as the journalists and tech experts began analyzing the list, they found a much darker truth. The phone numbers being targeted weren’t just for bad guys. Many were government officials. Academics. Human rights activists. Political dissidents. The largest group – with over 120 numbers  – was journalists.

    The implications of this were staggering to Laurent and Sandrine. If NSO’s clients were targeting innocent individuals, then the very nature of free speech and democracy were under attack.

    The true danger of having access to this list – why the secrecy and disabled electronics – became apparent when they looked at a series of numbers selected by a Moroccan client, targeting members of the French government. One name in particular stood out: Macron. French president Emmanuel Macron.

    If somebody had the audacity to spy on one of the most prominent leaders in the world, then there’s no telling what they would do to keep that secret.

    The two journalists knew they had to bring this story to the public. Their mission was as clear as it was difficult: Turn the information on the list into hard evidence, while remaining hidden from one of the largest cybersecurity companies in the world, and their powerful clients.

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    Who should read Pegasus

    • Followers of the Pegasus Project and other cyber security international bombshells like the Panama Papers, or Wikileaks.
    • Fans of investigative journalism who want to know the stories behind the reports that shake the world.
    • Anyone who owns a phone and wants to know just how fragile their privacy really is.

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