The Pegasus spyware developed by the Niv, Shalev, and Omri (NSO) Group has created outrage in global headlines. The Israeli technology firm NSO has developed the spyware in 2010, for remote surveillance. Pegasus Spyware is a licensed software sold to government clients to combat terrorism and crime. It is developed with the intent of allowing governments to spy on their citizens by infiltrating their iOS and Android devices.
Just like any other spyware, it runs at the back of your operating system without your knowledge, gathers personal information like phone calls, photos, contacts, text messages, browser history, passwords, live location, gains access to camera and microphone, and relays all the information to the individual or the group spying on you. So what makes Pegasus the most powerful and invasive spyware out there? It uses a zero-click attack to gain control over your phone. As the name “zero-click” suggests, the user doesn’t have to perform any action in order to have the spyware installed. Just a missed WhatsApp call does the job.
The chances of detecting Pegasus on your phone are very slim and it is impossible to completely get rid of it once affected.
How Pegasus works
- It attacks the kernel, which is the core of the operating system.
- It constantly reads, listens and watches all your activities at all times.
- If the spyware cannot communicate with the hacker for more than 60 days, it self-destructs
- Once installed, Pegasus spyware has more control over the phone than the owner itself.
- It can hack the safest networks like Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
Why should you care?
The spyware has been installed on about 50,000 smartphones and you can be one of them. By gaining access to your microphone and camera, they can be used to watch you even while you are sleeping. The spyware can hack into phones without any hint or suspicion. This malware can be installed on your phone by just giving a WhatsApp missed call. The software then deletes the missed call so that the user is not sceptical. However, it can also be installed by clicking on any malicious links.
Moreover, spyware can not only collect data but also make calls, send text messages and emails, and delete important, sensitive data.
The NSO group
NSO stands for Niv, Shalev, and Omri, the founders of the company. The NSO group aims to save lives and create a better, safer world. Their products are used by government intelligence and law enforcement to mitigate crime and terrorism.
How to detect Pegasus on your phone
- Install Mobile Verification Toolkit on your device to check for signs of infection
- You received an alert message from WhatsApp asking you to update to the latest version of the app
- Consult a cybersecurity expert to check your phone for malware
- Send your phone for a digital forensic analysis
How to stay safe from Pegasus Spyware
According to Citizen Lab, even factory resetting your smartphone will not be useful as it cannot get rid of the spyware completely. So, it is better to be safe than sorry.
- The first and foremost thing to do is to update the software on your iOS device to 14.7 and your Android device to Android 11.
- Update your WhatsApp to the latest version.
- Do not click on any links, websites, attachments and files from unknown senders. Do not grant the apps on your phone too many permissions.
If you suspect that your phone is infected with Pegasus, immediately discard the phone. No amount of resetting or restoring the phone will completely remove Pegasus spyware from your smartphone.