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Cybersecurity Experts: Azerbaijan Uses Pegasus Spyware Against Armenia with Israeli Approval

Cybersecurity Experts: Azerbaijan Uses Pegasus Spyware Against Armenia with Israeli Approval

On October 30, a significant number of iPhone users in Armenia were shocked to receive notifications from Apple indicating their devices had been targeted by spyware. Cybersecurity experts Samvel Martirosyan and Artur Papyan explained that while such notifications could signify various attacks, in Armenia's case, it often meant an infection with the notorious Pegasus spyware.

During a press conference, Martirosyan, an expert in cybersecurity, revealed that Pegasus, a spy program developed by the private Israeli company NSO Group, was originally designed with the intention of aiding governments in combating criminals. However, it has been widely misused by various dictatorial regimes to target civil society, including opposition politicians and journalists.

Martirosyan pointed out Azerbaijan as one of the most active users of Pegasus. He disclosed that Azerbaijan has approximately 1,000 targets within its own country alone, being monitored through this malicious program. These targets, far from being criminals, include opposition politicians, journalists, and other individuals critical of the Azerbaijani government.

What's alarming is that Azerbaijan is also employing Pegasus against Armenia. This revelation is not limited to local experts but has been corroborated by extensive international research teams. The use of Pegasus against Armenia is carried out with the permission of the Israeli government, considering it as a military export, and Pegasus is not sold to other countries without government approval.

Pegasus typically infects the phones of individuals with vital information, as well as their relatives and even children. Known cases of infection in Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) involve people in key positions within the National Security Service, military personnel, opposition figures, journalists, law enforcement employees, embassy staff, and others. In many instances, the victims remain unaware of the infection until much later, leading to significant concerns about stolen sensitive information.

Martirosyan estimated that at least 1,000 people in Armenia were infected or targeted by Pegasus, resulting in the theft of substantial confidential information. Pegasus provides its operators full access to the victim's phone, allowing them to eavesdrop on conversations, view files, photos, chats, and even wiretap conversations through the phone's microphone.

The spyware operates discreetly, without causing any noticeable symptoms such as overheating or freezing on the infected device. It infiltrates the phone through "zero clicks," meaning the victim doesn't need to click on any suspicious links. Additionally, Pegasus can infect both iPhones and Android phones, with Apple's diagnostic information collection slightly improving detection chances for iPhones.

Detecting a Pegasus infection proves exceedingly difficult, and the absence of an alert does not guarantee the phone's security. Therefore, users are urged to exercise utmost caution and prioritize enhanced cybersecurity measures to safeguard their sensitive information from such malicious attacks.


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