It spreads like a real virus, leaping from one infected person to everyone else in their network: that’s the conclusion of filmmaker Laura Poitras and research group Forensic Architecture (FA) about Pegasus spyware, which is made by the Israeli company NSO. Without you noticing, Pegasus can take control of your smartphone, extract all your information and even send messages in your name. NSO sells this spyware to governments who use it to snoop on political opponents.
In this collaborative project, Poitras and FA combine investigative journalism with art and activism to unlock huge quantities of data. One of their discoveries was the connection between known Pegasus hacks and physical attacks on the people concerned—including the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018. They also discovered for themselves that anyone investigating NSO gets hacked. Meanwhile, NSO is now dealing in global surveillance software to curb the Covid pandemic.
Brian Eno composed an ominous soundscape for this chilling short documentary (part of the anthology film The Year of the Everlasting Storm) which shows that surveillance is a form of violence.