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Pegasus Spyware – What It is and How Does it Work?

The Pegasus Spyware is a spyware software developed by the Israeli software company NSO Group and targeted more than 50000 different people worldwide. While most people are unlikely to be affected by the spyware, understanding how it works can help you minimize the possibility of exposure. 

Pegasus Spyware is a surveillance software created by the Israel’s cyber intelligence firm NSO Group. The firm is involved in building sophisticated software for law enforcement agencies and other intelligence agencies. The prime purpose of the service provider is to prevent crime and terror activities. Pegasus is one such software that was designed to beat criminals and terrorists in their own game. 


What is Pegasus Spyware?


Pegasus, like we already stated, is spyware software aimed at preventing crime and terror activities. In fact, the Pegasus Spyware has been regarded as one of the most powerful spyware programs that were ever created.

Pegasus is created explicitly for infiltrating smartphones. This includes both Android and iOS devices. The software converts the smartphones into a surveillance device. It, however, should not mean that the software is developed for the purpose of criminal activities. In essence, the NSO Group marketed the Pegasus spyware with the sole aim of tracking down the criminals and terrorists. It is essentially developed for targeted spying activities and not for mass surveillance in any case. The spyware is sold only to the government authorities, and a single license can help you infect several smartphones. 


How Does Pegasus Spyware Work?


Pegasus essentially exploits the undiscovered vulnerabilities and bugs prevalent in your Android and iOS devices. Unfortunately, updating your phone to the latest software version will not guarantee to save you from being infected. Even the smartphone on the latest security patch can be easily infected. 

Until 2016, the Pegasus Spyware relied on a technique called Spear Fishing. This involved sending text messages and emails with the malicious link. Such messages were sent to the target, and when the target interacted with them, the phone would be infected. Subsequent versions of the software have done away with the need for clicking any link. 

With effect from 2019, Pegasus can simply infiltrate into a phone through a missed call on WhatsApp or even any other seemingly simple tasks. In these cases, the user need not interact with the software in any way whatsoever. Unfortunately, that would also make it quite impossible for the user to detect that he or she has been infected. WhatsApp in May 2019 claimed that Pegasus exploited a bug in its code for infecting the target device, and it was detected that over 1400 Android and iOS devices were seemingly affected. WhatsApp later fixed this bug. 


The History of Pegasus Spyware Through the Years


Pegasus as a Spyware has not evolved in a single day. It took years for the developers to improve the functionality. 

  • 2016: Pegasus was first discovered by the Canadian cybersecurity organization The Citizen Lab. It was discovered on the smartphone of human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor.
  • September 2018: The Citizen Lab published a report in which it indicated that Pegasus is being used in more than 45 countries. This included India as well. 
  • October 2019: There was a report from WhatsApp that journalists and human rights activists are being spied upon in India using the Pegasus spyware. 
  • July 2021: The Pegasus Project, an international investigative journalism initiative, claimed that many governments used the Pegasus Spyware for spying on government officials, opposition leaders, activists, journalists, and many others. It also stated that the Indian government used Pegasus to spy on around 300 people between 2017 and 2019. 

But, We heard that Apple Devices are Secure… How Does Pegasus Infect Apple Security?


We have always believed that Apple devices and iOS platforms are incredibly secure. But, unfortunately, the Android platform is open source and can be pretty vulnerable. But how is it that the secure Apple systems are also affected? 

That clearly indicates that no device is 100 percent safer and secure. Apple devices are frequently updated to the latest version. Through an automatic patch installation. This goes a long way in promoting the security and safety of your device. Moreover, the update process and OS development take a closed system where no other manufacturer is allowed to tweak the code, as in the case of Android devices. 

Even then, Pegasus spyware can affect Apple devices. You would find that the spyware makes use of the bugs and is one of the experts in exploiting even the smallest of the loopholes. 


How to Tell if Your Phone is Affected by Pegasus Spyware?


It may not be easy to find if your device is affected and you are being monitored. In fact, in the case of an Android device, you would find that there are a huge number of hardware and software variations which may make it a little challenging to find if you are being monitored. 

In any case, unless you are someone quite prominent or someone in the political field, you are pretty unlikely to be affected. Moreover, even when you are affected, it is quite difficult to find if you are affected. And then, the very nature of the spyware can prove to be a great option from that perspective. It can remain covert and remain undetected on any of the devices. 

However, there is an excellent option to help you detect if you are affected. One of the simplest options you would find would be to use a unique tool for the purpose. Use of the Amnesty International Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) can be a great option to help you achieve more positive results. The tool can work under MacOS and Linux and can be used to find if you are affected or being monitored. 


How can stay safe from being Infected by Pegasus Spyware?


Now that you have found how Pegasus works in infecting the target devices, it can be worthwhile to check out a few measures to stay safe from being infected. As a result, you will be able to minimize your exposure to the Pegasus software. 

Here are a few inputs that you would want to follow:

  • Do not open the links that appear to be untrusted. Open them only if they are genuine and come from the trusted contacts and sources. 
  • Pay enough attention to the links being sent through email or other messaging applications. 
  • Ensure that your device is updated regularly. Update each of the patches and updates. 
  • Limit the physical access to your phone in any way. Enabling the pin, fingerprint, or face lock can be a few of the options that you would find quite impressive. 
  • Do not use any public and free WiFi services. This is more so when accessing the sensitive information over those networks. 
  • Encrypt your device so that the device details or the content therein is protected and is not accessible to strangers or culprits. 
  • Configure the remote wipe feature on your phone. This will help you wipe the data instantly if your phone is lost or stolen.

The Final Wrap Up 

Well, Pegasus Spyware has become one of the most widely discussed topics in recent times. We are sure you, too, maybe looking to find more about what exactly Pegasus spyware is and how it can affect your device. The discussion here should be one of the best sources for gaining enough of fruitful information on how to deal with Pegasus and how to prevent it from affecting your device. 


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About the author

Timmappa Kamat

Timmappa Kamat is interested in technology and allied subjects and loves sharing the knowledge through the tech-savvy websites as a freelancer. He has been involved in providing content for a host of technology-based sites on day to day topics in the tech arena. Fond of gadgets and gizmos, he loves working with different apps, tools and software and sharing the knowledge with the world at large.

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