May I have a word about… Pegasus spyware

Jonathan Bouquet

The unsavoury revelations about the hacking of WhatsApp by software developed by Israeli company, NSO Group, raised some interesting imagery. NSO has developed a powerful smartphone virus called Pegasus, described by NSO co-founder Shalev Hulio as the company’s Trojan horse that could be sent “flying through the air” to infiltrate devices.

Right, let’s get this straight. Pegasus was the son of mortal Medusa and Poseidon, god of the sea. Pegasus and his brother Chrysaor were born from the blood of their beheaded mother, who was tricked and killed by Perseus. Pegasus was represented as a kind-hearted, gentle creature, somewhat naive but always eager to help.

The Trojan horse was an act of subterfuge the Greeks used to enter Troy and win the Trojan war. Nowhere have I found a reference to it taking to the skies. Purely earthbound. And note Pegasus’s good nature. It hardly squares with the potential malevolence of NSO’s device.

Meanwhile, in the equally complex world of artificial intelligence, here are some words of wisdom from Jacqui Taylor, chief executive and founder of web science company Flying Binary. “AI can signal all the needles in all the haystacks of data they train on: humans must decide which of the outputs apply to the change the business is trying to introduce.”

Stirring words, I’m sure you’ll agree, but what do they mean? If I were a cynical sort, I might suspect that this were written by a not particularly well-trained computer rather than a human being.

And finally, a well-turned phrase from Kurt Andersen in his highly entertaining book Fantasyland, which attempts to make sense of Trump’s America and succeeds. As he says in his foreword: “As I pass by fish in barrels, I will often shoot them.” Now, that’s horse sense.

•Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist