ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On Sunday, the New York Times reported that L3 Harris, an American-based military contractor with offices in Rochester, recently attempted to acquire an Israeli-based cyber security company called NSO Group.
The organization was blacklisted by the Biden administration last winter over its spyware program, Pegasus.
The NYT article reports that the deal between L3 Harris and NSO is no longer moving forward. L3 Harris told News 8 that they are not commenting.
But what is Pegasus, and are there other systems like it? A local cybersecurity expert is weighing in on the state of our digital security.
“Disaster. I mean I can’t say it any more direct than that. And that’s the challenge with a tool like this is that it’s so powerful,” said Paul Robinson, Vice President of Sales with Pittsford-based IGI Cybersecurity.
Robinson explains the spyware program “Pegasus” originally had good intentions for internet-based protection and safety.
“The reason for the tool was to defend against counterterrorism and crime and have the ability to have access to the devices that might have been involved in a crime that could provide pertinent data to helping solve a crime,” Robinson said.
There are other programs like this one out there. Pegasus is a “zero-click” hacking tool with the ability to remotely access user information without the need for any kind of phishing link. But as cyberinfrastructure advances in positive ways — it can also have grave negative impacts.
“When the virtual world bleeds into the physical world, that’s when we start to feel the pain,” he explained. “The advancements of these technologies can absolutely impact our everyday lives. It could even cost human life if documents and highly classified information fall into the wrong hands.”
There are steps you can take to best protect your personal data. One of which includes actually reading through all of those fine print “User Agreements,” especially with so much data sharing now part of our daily lives.
“Do a privacy audit. There’s a section in everybody’s phones where you can go into settings and what you’re giving this application that you’re using access to. Would absolutely do that. That’s the first and most important step to do,” Robinson suggested.
Another step for added protection: switch up your passwords every 60 to 90 days for highly sensitive accounts such as medical accounts, online banking, etc.