An investigation into misuse of digital information weaponry reads like a noir thriller for the 21st century.
A book-length piece of investigative journalism, ‘Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware’ (MacMillan, £20, ISBN 9781529094831) does no more or less than what it says on the label. On the one hand, it examines what the authors claim to be the world’s most powerful cyber-surveillance system, “available to any government that can afford its multi-million price tag”. We are told that the system’s creator – the privately owned Israel-based NSO group – markets the product on the strength of its ability to thwart terrorists and catch criminals.
Of course, you can’t get a non-fiction book like this to print unless you’re prepared to ramp up the fear factor. But you get the feeling that the authors haven’t had to inflate their findings too much to make them read like a noirish thriller in which 21st-century digital information weaponry is used against civil society. As their operation unfolds, the authors reveal how thousands of lives have been affected by having their phones hacked, and how governments and corporations are ‘laying waste to human rights’. You can’t help feeling that these revelations will have come with great personal risks for the duo.
As US television news anchor Rachel Maddow says in her introduction to Richard and Rigaud’s compelling account of the Pegasus Project saga, what we have in our hands is an “edge-of-your-seat procedural about the heroes who found this dragon and then set out to slay it”. Pegasus is already a strong contender for technology book of the year.