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While 85 per cent of people own a smartphone, 54 per cent believe the technology is spying on them. Pixabay

As Indians break their heads over WhatsApp spygate where an Israeli bug infected select users smartphones to access their personal details, the mass surveillance technology has truly come of age and now the governments just need to make a missed call to install an “exploit link” into the device of a person they want to bug, hack and listen in.

From the days when surveillance methods involved bugging the phone or cable wires to tap phones (remember Radia tapes!) to track a person’s vehicle by installing a tracking device beneath the car, cyber criminals and hackers have devised modern and untraceable tools to hack into your systems.


The most popular mass surveillance programme is ‘PRISM’ — under which the US National Security Agency (NSA) collects user’s personal communications from various US internet companies.

‘PRISM’ allegedly collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to internet companies.

The NSA can use PRISM requests to target communications that were encrypted when they traveled across the internet backbone, to focus on stored data that telecommunication filtering systems discarded earlier, and to get access to data.

Its existence was leaked by NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew.

US President Barack Obama, during a visit to Germany, stated that the NSA’s data gathering practices constitute “a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people”.

According to Amnesty.org, NSA and UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are monitoring you with code names.

‘Muscular’ is one such project that “intercepts user data as it passes between Google servers”. Yahoo! was also said to be affected.

Between December 2012 and January 2013, ‘Muscular’ collected 181 million records but “Google has now strengthened security between their servers since then.


Hackers and cyber criminals have IT managers on their target as per the survey. Pixabay

Another tool called ‘Optic Nerve’ allowed secret access to Yahoo! webcam chats. In a six-month period, it spied on 1.8 million Yahoo! users and took one still image every five minutes of video per user.

“GCHQ targeted Belgacom, Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider with spyware called Regin, a malicious piece of software designed to break into Belgaom’s networks. The purpose of the GCHQ hack was to spy on phones and internet users using the Belgacom network”.

Since then, the technology has evolved to such an extent that just a missed call is enough to snoop on anyone, anywhere.

Citizen Lab, a laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy of the University of Toronto, has identified over 100 cases of abusive targeting of human rights’ defenders and journalists in at least 20 countries across the globe via the new piece of Israeli spyware called Pegasus.

Once Pegasus is installed, it begins contacting the operator’s command and control (C&C) servers to receive and execute operators’ commands, and send back the target’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls from popular mobile messaging apps.

Also Read: Samsung Users Most Satisfied with the Brand: CMR

“The operator can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activity in the phone’s vicinity, and use the GPS function to track a target’s location and movements,” said Citizen Lab.

The spyware can be placed on phones using multiple vectors, or means of infection. The WhatsApp exploit from May 2019 was one such vector.

In 2017, the wife of a murdered Mexican journalist was sent alarming text messages concerning her husband’s murder, designed to trick her into clicking on a link and infecting her phone with the Pegasus spyware.

In 2018, a close confidant of Jamal Khashoggi was targeted in Canada with a fake package notification, resulting in the infection of his iPhone. Citizen Lab has tracked more than two dozen cases using similar techniques. (IANS)


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Hugs, caress scenes, extramarital affairs, vulgar and bold dressing, bed scenes and intimacy of married couples are being glamourised in utter disregard to Islamic teachings and culture of Pakistani society," PEMRA stated

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has directed Pak TV channels to stop airing what it calls indecency and intimacy in dramas, Samaa TV reported.

A notification issued by the authority states that it has been receiving numerous complaints from viewers who believe that the content being depicted in dramas does not represent the "true picture of Pakistani society".

"PEMRA finally got something right: Intimacy and affection between married couples isn't 'true depiction of Pakistani society and must not be 'glamourized'. Our 'culture' is control, abuse, and violence, which we must jealously guard against the imposition of such alien values," said Reema Omer, Legal Advisor, South Asia, International Commission of Jurists.

"Hugs, caress scenes, extramarital affairs, vulgar and bold dressing, bed scenes and intimacy of married couples are being glamourized in utter disregard to Islamic teachings and culture of Pakistani society," PEMRA stated, as per the report.

The authority added that it has directed channels time and again to review content with "indecent dressing, controversial and objectionable plots, bed scenes and unnecessary detailing of events".

Most complaints received by the PEMRA Call Centre during September concern drama serial "Juda Huay Kuch is Tarah", which created quite a storm on social media for showing an unwitting married couple as foster siblings in a teaser for an upcoming episode. However, it only turned out to be a family scheme after the full episode aired, but by that time criticism had mounted on HUM TV for using the themes of incest to drive the plot, the report said. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Pakistan, Islam, Serials, Dramas, Culture, Teachings.