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WhatsUpp with Commercial Hacking Tools in Government Hands?

WhatsUpp with Commercial Hacking Tools in Government Hands?

If you're like 1.5 billion other people on the planet – or if you are Jared Kushner – you conduct a lot of your personal or business conversations on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app that says it's largely impervious to snoopers, hackers, and spooks.

But according to a bombshell report in The Financial Times earlier this week, the app has long contained a critical flaw that's enabled hackers to tap into your smartphone just by placing a WhatsApp voice call to you.


The hack relied on a program written by the Israeli tech firm NSO, which designs powerful snooping tools for law enforcement and counterterrorism officials in the Middle East and "western countries."

But it appears that political dissidents, human rights activists, and even a lawyer filing a liability suit against NSO itself were targeted – the FT report doesn't say who the attackers were.

WhatsApp says the bug has been fixed as of Monday. But this story – in which a commercial hacking program sold to governments was used to violate people's privacy and snoop on dissidents –illustrates a few big political challenges that we've highlighted in discussions about cybersecurity.

Cyber-arms control is hard. Cyberweapons, being scripts of computer code, can be very hard to control and contain, even with close oversight of who gets to buy them.

Mission creep is easy. Companies like NSO say they sell these products only to police and counterterrorism officials – but once they are in government hands, they can be used (or sold, or stolen) for other purposes or by other parts of the state.

Liability is murky. Who should be held accountable here: NSO for developing a product that was used beyond its (presumably) stated intent? Or WhatsApp for failing to guarantee the security of its own platform?

Surveillance and espionage are hardly new. But never before has there been a device that contained as much data about your thoughts, habits, preferences, movements, and personal relationships as the device you're holding or reading right this second.

The upshot: With hackers, governments, and commercial developers all trying to figure out how best to crack into it – what are the rules of the game?

The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.

Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.

In a national referendum on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new constitution. But, why are people in this oasis of political stability and steady economic growth in South America willing to undo the bedrock of the system that has allowed Chile to prosper for so long?

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

One week before the US election. What do other world leaders want to happen?

Well, I mean, let's face it. Outside the United States, most of the world's leaders would prefer to see the back of Trump. An America first policy was not exactly made for non-Americans. That was not the intended demographic audience. Trump doesn't really care. In fact, to a degree, it's kind of a selling point that a lot of foreign leaders don't want Trump. It's showing that Trump is strong in negotiations and indeed is doing better for the American people.

That's largely BS, but occasionally it's true. I mean, his willingness to use American power to force the Mexican government to actually tighten up on Mexico's Southern border and stop immigration from coming through. AMLO would have much rather that not have happened, but the fact that it did was an America first policy, that rebounded to the benefits of the United States. And there are other examples of that. But generally speaking, it would be better for the US long-term, and for the world, if we had more harmonious, smoother relations with other countries around the world, certainly pretty much all the Europeans would much rather see Trump lose. The United Kingdom is the significant exception given the nature of Brexit, and the fact that Trump has been in favor of that, like being called Mr. Brexit by five or six Brits or however many did.

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