As cell phones have become ubiquitous, government intelligence agencies have poured vast resources into hacking them, remotely stripping people of their privacy in the name of national security.
Now, a burgeoning industry has emerged, generating huge profits for shadowy corporations that specialize in developing ever-more innovative ways to secretly infect digital devices with spyware.
Activists, journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents the world over have been surveilled and in a number of cases arrested, tortured or killed.
Citizen Lab, a cyber security research organization based at the University of Toronto, revealed the existence of a “zero-click” exploit that exposed 1.65 billion phone devices to a complete and almost undetectable takeover by the spyware known as Pegasus.
Governments that have deep pockets can simply go and purchase this type of despotism as a service off the shelf and are possibly using it to track down whoever questions their integrity on corruption, land expropriation and human rights abuses.