A first version of BYTES OF REPRESSION was exhibited at “Practicing Sovereignty. Interventions for open digital futures” exhibition by Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin (Germany) in June 2022.

For many years now law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world extended their tools arsenal with spy software (spyware), often times produced by a private commercial company, designed to silently install on targeted computers or mobile devices in order to extract files, intercept calls, emails and text messages, as well as lurk through the embedded microphones and webcams. However, for just as long, researchers and investigators documented countless cases of abuse involving the illegal spying of journalists, activists and human rights defenders everywhere. Especially over the last year, the systemic nature of this abuse and the scale of the problem became more apparent.

In 2021, Nex led technical investigations with the international journalistic consortium Pegasus Project, which revealed the targeting of countless journalists, activists and politicians around the world with the “Pegasus” spyware, produced by the Israeli company NSO Group. The revelations sparked a global surveillance scandal which continues to unfold. The targeting of politicians and government officials across Europe also demonstrated how Pegasus poses not only a threat to human rights and personal freedoms, but to democracy and national sovereignty as well. As a result, the European Parliament launched a committee of inquiry.

Spyware is designed to be stealthy and remain unnoticed. It escapes accountability by benefiting from its apparent immateriality. But, as with any other software, spyware is also an architecture of bytes. A living digital being that someone, somewhere, created with some thousands of lines of code. Bytes of Repression attempts to demystify and deconstruct Pegasus. Through data visualizations of its components, recovered from an infected iPhone, you can interact with binaries which profited hundreds of millions of euros while crushing dissent the world over.

Technical description

A specifically-designed software using 2D and 3D data visualization algorithms displays the binary content of all components of the Pegasus spyware as recovered from the infected phone of a targeted activist. For example, in the screenshot below the viewer can observe the visualization of libwacalls.dylib, Pegasus’ plugin responsible for intercepting WhatsApp calls. Other similar files, for example include libimo.dylib for imo, or libvbcalls.dylib for Viber.

On the first display, the system maps the binaries’ bytes relationships by turning sequential bytes values into trigrams, then used as spatial coordinates on X, Y and Z axes. For example, a trigram would contain byte values at locations {0, 1, 2} then {1, 2, 3}, {2, 3, 4}, etc., until processing of entire binary file completes.

Through observation, it is possible to identify recurring patterns within the resulting cube, often indicating unique characteristics of the visualized binary. For example, a keen eye might be able to recognize visual structures that are unique to the targeted operating system, the programming language used to code the spyware, or, for example, the employment of encryption of other obfuscation techniques.

In the installation, through a hand tracking system, the viewer can interact with this 3D visualization, rotating it and interrupting its rendering.

On the second display, instead, it’s possible to see a 2D visualization of the binaries’ content. The blocks (or pixels, depending on size) are provided a color or a gamma based on the byte value from 0 to 255. For example, in the screenshots below, a byte value of 0 translates to a black block. A byte value of 255 appears white instead, and shades of gray will scale for values in between. Through this technique it’s possible to quickly observe the whole structure of the binary.

Following is a list of people confirmed or identified as potential targets of Pegasus, through years of investigations and research by multiple parties. The true extent of targeting through this spyware is expected to be exponentially larger.

Abay Sarkulov, Abdessadak El Bouchattaoui, Abdulaziz Alkhamis, Abdullah Khashoggi, Abel Barrera, Abha Singh, Abhishek Banerjee, Aboubakr Jamai, Abulfaz Gurbanli, Adil Ismayilov, Adrien Beauduin, Adrien Quatennens, Ahmed Al-Neimat, Ahmed Mansoor, Ahmed Sabah al-Salloum, Aisha bint Hussein, Aizat Abilseit, Ajmal Khan, Ajtony Csaba Nagy, Akhmetzhan Yessimov, Akif Gurbanov, Alaa Al-Siddiq, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, Alankar Sawai, Alba Bosch, Albano Dante Fachin, Albert Batet, Albert Botran, Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, Alejandro Caballero, Alejandro Calvillo, Alejandro Sicairos, Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, Alexandra Zapata, Alexandro Patrón, Ali Amar, Alok Shukla, Alok Verma, Alvaro Delgado Gómez, Alya Alhwaiti, Aminatou Haidar, Amjad Nasser, Amnesty employee, Ana Beatriz Lazo, Anand Teltumbde, Anar Orujov, Anar Mammadli, Andreu Van den Eynde, Andrew Mwenda, András Szabó, Andrés Manuel López Beltran, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Andrés Villarreal, Anil Ambani, Anirban Bhattacharya, Anjani Kumar, Ankit Grewal, Anna Gabriel, Anthony Shimray, Antoni Comín, Anup Chetia, Apam Muivah, Arif Aliyev, Arià Bayé, Arnaldo Otegi, Arnaud Montebourg, Artur Mas, Arturo Rodríguez García, Arun Ferreira, Arunank, Arzu Abdullayeva, Asabali Mustafayev, Ashish Gupta, Ashok Bharti, Ashok Lavasa, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Askar Mamin, Aslan Ismayilov, Asset Issekeshev, Atem Vashum, Attila Aszódi, Attila Chikán, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Avaz Zeynalli, Avi Berger, Aviram Elad, Avner Netanyahu, Aydin Janiyev, Ayman Nour, Aynur Elgunash, Aynur Jamalgizi, Aytan Farhadova, Aytan Mammadova, Azam Ahmed, Azer Aykhan, Aziz Karimov, Azzam Tamimi, Bahaddin Haziyev, Bahrain Journalist A, Bahraini officials, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Bakhytzhan Sagintayev, Bakhytzhan Toregozhina, Balla Ravindranath, Balázs Weingartner, Banjyotsna Lahiri, Barham Salih, Bashir Suleymanli, Bayram Mammadov, Beatriz Benitez, Bela Bhatia, Ben Hubbard, Ben Hubbard, Bigeldy Gabdullin, Bilal Lone, Bishop Benoit Alowonou, Bob Mugabe, Bradley Hope, Brigitta Csikász, Bruno Delport, Bruno Le Maire, Carine Kanimba, Carles Riera, Carlos Dada, Carlos Ernesto Martínez D’aubuisson, Carlos Figueroa Ibarra, Carlos González García, Carlos Ketohou, Carlos Loret de Mola, Carmen Aristegui, Carmen Tatiana Marroquín, Cecilio Pineda, Cecilio Pineda Birto, Charles Michel, Chhimey Rigzen, Claude Mangin, Claudio X. González, Colonel Amit Kumar, Colonel Mukul Dev, Cristina Bautista, Cyril Ramaphosa, Daniel Lizárraga, Daniel Lizárraga, Daniel Reyes, Darkhan Sharipov, David Bonvehi, David Ekoué Dosseh, David Fernández, David Haigh, David Madi, David Muhoozi, David Peña, Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, Deepak Gidwani, Degree Prasad Chauhan, Degree Prasad Chouhan, Devirupa Mitra, Diana Riba, Didier Reynders, Dimash Alzhanov, Dolors Mas, Dominique Simonnot, Dr. Elias Campo, Dr. S.R. Rao, Dr. Sharifa Siwar, Dr. Simon Barquera, Dudu Mizrahi, Dániel Németh, Dávid Dercsenyi, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Edwy Plenel, Efren Lemus, Elchin Sadigov, Elchin Shikhly, Elena Jimenez, Elies Campo, Elisenda Paluzie, Elkhan Shukurlu, Elkin Khalilov, Ella Grajeda Vivero, Elliott Ohin, Elman Fattah, Elmira Rahimova, Elnur Astanbayli, Elsa Artadi, Emi Palmor, Emilio Aristegui, Emmanuel Macron, Eric Bagiruwubusa, Ernest Maragall, Etienne Mutabazi, Ewa Wrzosek, Eynulla Fatullayev, Ezequiel Barrera, Fariz Namazli, Father Pierre Marie-Chanel Affognon, Fatima Lqadiri, Fatima Movlamli, Fawzia Zainal, Felipe Calderon, Felipe de la Cruz, Ferdinand Ayité, Fernando Rodríguez Doval, Ferran Bel, Finnish diplomats, Fizza Heydarova, Fouad Filali, Frank Ntwali, François de Rugy, Fuzuli Huseynov, G. Haragopal, G. Parameshwara, Gabriel Labrador, Gabriela Cáceres, Gagandeep Kang, Galimzhan Yessenov, Ganimat Zahid, Gatera Gashabana, Gautam Navlakha, Ghada Oueiss, Ghanem Almasarir, Ghassan Halaika, GIEI investigation, Gilles Boyer, Gonzalo Alfonso López Beltran, Gonzalo Boye, Griselda Triana, Gular Mehdizade, György Gémesi, Gérald Darmanin, Hala Ahed Deeb, Hanan Alatr, Hanan El Atr, Hany Babu M.T., Hari Menon, Harmanjit Nagi, Hassan Babar Nehru, Hatice Cengiz, Hicham Mansouri, Human Rights Defender 4, Human Rights Defender 5, Human Rights Defender 6, Hungarian Journalist, Hungarian Photojournalist, Héctor Astudillo, Héctor Silva, Ifthikar Gilani, Iftikhar Gilani, Ignace Dalle, Ignacio Cembrero, Ignacio Rodriguez Reyna, Ilan Yeshua, Ilkin Rustamzade, Imran Khan, Inara Rafiggizi, Inderjit Sial, Individual from Diario El Mundo, Individual from El Faro, Individual from El Faro, Individual from La Prensa Gráfica, Individual from NGO, Intigam Aliyev, Ipsa Shatakshi, Irfan Fidan, Iris Elovich, Islam Shikhali, Ismael Bojórquez, J. Gopikrishnan, Jagadish Meshram, Jagdeep Chhokar, Jagdish Maithani, Jagdish Maithani, Jagdish Meshram, Jaison Cooper, Jaspal Singh Heran, Jasur Sumerinli, Jaume Alonso Cuevillas, Jean Yves Le Drian, Jean-Michel Blanquer, Jenaro Villamil, Jhonny Wright Sol, Jitendra Kumar Ojha, Jitendra Kumar Ojha, Jitendra Kumar Ojha’s wife, Joan Matamala, Joan Ramon Casals, Joaquim Jubert, Joaquim Torra, John Gosden, John M. Ackerman, Jon Iñarritu, Jordi Baylina, Jordi Bosch, Jordi Domingo, Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Solé, Jorge Carrasco, Jose Marinero, Josep Costa, Josep Lluís Alay, Josep Ma Ganyet, Josep Maria Jové, Josep Rius, Joseph Breham, Josetxo Zaldúa, José Luis Sanz, José Ramón López Beltran, Journalists at Walla, Juan Mayer, Juan Pardinas, Juan Pardinas’s wife, Julia Gavarrete, Julien Denormandie, János Bánáti, K.K. Sharma, Karina Maciel, Karla Micheel Salas, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kenes Rakishev, Kennedy Gihana, Kenny Katombe, Keren Turner, Khadija Ismayilova, Khalid Aghaliyev, Khalid Bin Ahmed Khalifa, Khalid Khan, Khalig Bahadir, King Mohammed VI, Kitovi Zhimomi, Lalsu Nagoti, Lama Fakih, Laura Borràs, León Fierro, Lingaram Kodopi, Lobsang Sangay, Louis Michel, Loujain al-Hathloul, Lourdes Mendoza, Luis Encarnación, Luis Hernández Navarro, Lynda Bouchikhi, Lénaïg Bredoux, M Venkatesh, Maati Monjib, Madawi Al-Rasheed, Magdalena Łośko, Malem Ningthouja, Malik Abu Orabi, Manasseh Nshuti, Mandeep Singh, Mangalam Kesavan Venu, Manjunath Muddegowda, Manoj Gupta, Manoranjan Gupta, Manoranjana Gupta, Marc Solsona, Marcel Mauri, Marcela Topor, Marcela Turati Muñoz, Margarita Zavala, Maria Cinta Cid, Maria Elena Morera, Mariana Belloso, Marie Bamutese, Mario Patrón, Marta Pascal, Marta Rovira, Martin Smith, Martin Williaume, Maruti Kurwatkar, María Luz Nóchez, Mauricio Ernesto Sandoval Soriano, Mehman Aliyev, Mehman Huseynov, Mehriban Rahimli, Melitón Ortega, Member of Al Wefaq (G), Member of BCHR (D), Member of BCHR (E), Member of BCHR (F), Member of Waad (A), Member of Waad (B), Member of Waad (C), Meritxell Bonet, Meritxell Budo, Meritxell Serret, Michal Kolodziejczak, Minal Gadling, Mir Shahin Agayev, Miriam Feirberg, Miriam Nogueras, Mirvari Gahramanli, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, MK Venu, Mohamed Mediouri, Mohammed Al-Tajer, Mohammed VI, Moosa Abd-Ali, Mostafa Madbouly, Moti Sasson, Mukhtar Ablyazov, Mushfig Jabbar, Muzamil Jaleel, Natig Javadli, Nelson Rauda, Nicolás Mollinedo Bastar, Nihad Huseyn, Nihalsing Rathod, Noah Bullock, Norbert Mao, Noureddine Bedoui, Nurlan Smagulov, Officials at the European Commission, Omar Abdulaziz, Omar Brouksy, Omar Radi, Oriol Sagrera, Orkhan Adigozal, Oscar Luna, Oubi Buchraya Bachir, P Pavana, Panah Huseynov, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Parviz Hashimli, Pascal Beltrán del Río, Patricio Heriberto Ortiz Fernandez, Pau Escrich, Pavel Durov, Pendyala Pavana, Pere Aragonès, Peter Verlinden, Philippe Bouyssou, Phunthing Shimrang, Pol Cruz, Pradeep Awasthi, Prahlad Singh Patel, Prajak Kongkirati, Prashant Jha, Prashant Kishor, Pratyush Kumar, Pravin Togadia, Prem Shankar Jha, Prince Moulay Hicham, Princess Haya bint Hussein, Princess Lalla Salma, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Quentin Guillemain, Rafael Cabrera, Rafael Rodríguez Castañeda, Rafik Aliyev, Ragip Soylu, Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Singh, Rajeev Sharma, Rajeshwar Singh, Rakesh Asthana, Rakesh Ranjan, Rakesh Tiwary, Rami Levy, Ramin Deko, Ramtane Lamamra, Rania Dridi, Rasul Jafarov, Rauf Arifoglu, Raymond Houndjo, Raymundo Ramos, Rebeca Monge, Ricardo Alemán, Ricardo Anaya Cortés, Ricardo Avelar, Ricardo Raphael, Ritika Chopra, Rodney Dixon, Roger Torrent, Roger Torrent, Rohini Singh, Roman Giertych, Roman Gressier, Rona Wilson, Roopesh Kumar Singh, Rosa Moussaoui, Ross Smith, Roula Khalaf, Rovshan Hajibeyli, Roxana Lazo, Ruhakana Rugunda, Rupali Jadhav, Rupesh Kumar Singh, Rupesh Kumar Singh’s wife, Ruslan Izzetli, Ryszard Brejza, Saad Hariri, Saad-Eddine El Othmani, Saadat Bananyarly, Sachin Rao, Saida Gojamanli, Saikat Datta, Salah Hammouri, Salvador Camarena, Salvador García Soto, Sam Kutesa, Samdhong Rinpoche, Samujjal Bhattacharjee, Sandeep Kumar Rai, Sandeep Unnithan, Sandra Nogales, Sanjay Kachroo, Sanjay Shyam, Santiago Aguirre, Santosh Bhartiya, SAR Geelani, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, Saroj Giri, Satish Jarkiholi, Sauat Mynbayev, Saúl Beltrán Orozco, Sebastián Barragán, Seema Azad, Sen. Krzysztof Brejza, Senator Roberto Gil Zuarth, Sergi Miquel, Sergi Sabrià, Sergio Arauz, Serikzhan Mauletbay, Sevinc Vaqifqizi, Seymur Kazimov, Shabir Hussain, Shahbaz Khuduoglu, Shahla Ismayil, Shahveled Chobanoglu, Shai Babad, Shalini Gera, Shimon Cohen, Shishir Gupta, Shiv Gopal Mishra, Shlomo Filber, Shoma Sen, Shubhranshu Choudhary, Shura Ibrahimova, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidhant Sibal, Sioned Taylor, Smita Sharma, SNM Abdi, Soni Sori, Soulaiman Raissouni, Stella Hendler, Stephanie Brewer, Stuart Page, Sudha Bharadwaj, Suhair Jaradat, Sujaddin Sharifov, Sumir Kaul, Sushant Singh, Swati Chaturvedi, Syed Naseem Geelani, Szabolcs Panyi, Szilárd Gyenes, Sònia Urpí, Tamer Almisshal, Tamina Ospanova, Taoufik Bouachrine, Tariq Bukhari, Tazakhan Miralamli, Tempa Tsering, Tenzin Taklha, Thirumurugan Gandhi, Thomas G Savage, Tomasz Szwejgiert, Tony Jesudasan, Topaz Luk, Turan Ibrahim, Turan Kışlakçı, Turgut Gambar, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #1, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #10, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #11, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #2, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #3, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #4, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #5, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #6, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #7, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #8, U.S. State Dept. in Uganda #9, Ubai Al-Aboudi, UK lawyer, Ulvi Hasanli, Umar Khalid, V.K. Jain, Vahid Mustafayev, Valeria Guzmán, Vasantha Kumari, Venkata Rao Posina, Vernon Gonsalves, Vidadi Mammadov, Vidulfo Rosales, Vijaita Singh, Vivek Sundara, Vladimir Bozhko, Vusala Mahirgizi, Víctor Peña, Wadah Khanfar, Waqar Bhatti, WHRD and Journalist A, Xavier Olea Peláez, Xavier Vendrell, Xavier Vives, Xenia Hernandez, Xenia Oliva, Yaakov Peretz, Yahya Assiri, Yair Katz, Yasin Aktay, Yingcheep Atchanont, Yonatan Urich, Yoram Shimon, Yuriria Sierra, Yusuf Al-Jamri, Yésica Sánchez Maya, Zafar Ahmadli, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Zahir Azamat, Zamin Haji, Zaur Akbar, Ziya Guliyev, Zoltán Varga, Ádám Lajos Simicska, Édith Chabre, Édouard Philippe, Éric Zemmour, Óscar Martínez.

This list was last updated on June 9th, 2022.