Smartphone use has become so out of hand that recent studies reveal increasing mobile dependency in the world. Almost 6.6 billion people are smartphone users and this number will continue to inflate up to 7.6 billion in 2027. Because of mobile phone dependency, it is needless to say that this device contains users’ personal and covert information.
One of the biggest fears of smartphone users is mobile viruses that can covertly access personal data on your phones. The Pegasus spyware is one such virus. What is pegasus spyware, where do you get it, and how to avoid it — find out the answers by reading below.
What is Pegasus Spyware?
Pegasus is spyware or a utility that intends to access and obtain security and confidential information from people. At present, the mobile phone virus can perform a wide range of things such as obtaining passwords, tracking locations and calls, reading text messages, gathering information from apps, and using the microphone and camera of the affected device. This invasion of privacy harms the user because the data obtained can be used maliciously for personal gains.
The Beginnings of Pegasus
The Pegasus spyware is developed by NSO Group, a private cyber-arms entity based in Israeli. The company was founded in 2010, but Pegasus was only detected in 2016 after failure in installation. Pegasus malware was developed to collect sensitive and private data from users without their knowledge. The developers claim that they only manufacture and license the spyware to governments and that Pegasus aims to prevent and stop terrorism, criminal acts, and similar threats.
How Do You Acquire the Pegasus Spyware?
The earliest version of the hacking software attacks mobile phones through phishing. Target users click a phishing link on text messages or emails which contain the malware. However, this hacking method has been discovered and many mobile phone users have become cautious when clicking links.
Since then, Pegasus changed its method of attack and utilized no-click or zero-click exploits. It means users no longer have to click on anything for their device to become infected. iPhone users, for instance, can simply open an iMessage and the hacking malware will automatically install. There is also a case wherein a call on a user’s Whatsapp can trigger spyware, even if the user didn’t answer the call.
What Can Pegasus Spyware Do?
Pegasus is one of the most sophisticated smartphone viruses that can affect almost all iOS and Android versions. Besides having an advanced way of attacking, Pegasus also has a range of complex hacking capabilities. We’ve listed below what Pegasus can do to your mobile phone information and features.
- Duplicate and read outgoing and incoming text messages
- Copy emails you send and receive
- Listen to and record calls
- Obtain photos and videos you take
- Control your device’s microphone and camera
- Track your current and previous locations
- Harvest in-app data
- Obtain your passwords and security information
Because of the power of Pegasus to spy and hack mobile devices, Pegasus is considered the “most powerful piece of spyware ever developed.” It has the capacity to infect millions of phones and devices, without their users knowing that their smart devices already have the malware.
How to Detect Pegasus on Smartphones
The complexity of Pegasus does not end in its mode of attack and far-reaching capabilities. The developers of the hacking software have made it extremely difficult to detect. Infections of Pegasus software are hardly identifiable. Over 50 thousand devices worldwide are affected by the virus but their owners don’t even know they are being spied on.
What’s more, the antivirus scanner that can detect Pegasus has yet to be developed. It means installing even the latest antivirus software will be futile. It won’t be able to detect spyware due to zero-day attacks or exploits. In other words, the vulnerabilities of utility in iOS, Android, and antiviruses have already been exploited even before their developers can fix the issue. Thus, even software developers have no idea that their product has already been compromised.
Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT)
The Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) is software developed by the human rights group Amnesty International. This utility works in both Android and iOS to detect and identify the Pegasus spyware. While this sheds some light on the detection of malware, in reality, the process is time-consuming and demanding. It must only be operated by an expert in malware and antiviruses.
Installing MVT requires a compilation of the software in a Linux or macOS device. The MVT first retrieves a backup copy of the text messages, emails, calls, photos, videos, and other data from the smartphone. They are then scanned and assessed to identify the presence of Pegasus. If the device has been compromised, the MVT software notifies the user of appropriate action.
How to Protect Your Mobile Phone from Pegasus
If the Pegasus malware is hardly detectable, is there at least a way to protect oneself from being a victim?
Here are some recommendations to keep yourself safe from Pegasus.
- Make it a habit to reboot daily – Rebooting your mobile phones daily is like kicking out malware every day. If determined, your attackers will have no choice but to keep reinfecting your device daily. In the long run, they will eventually give up. Thus, regular rebooting reduces your risk of becoming a victim and also increases the chance of detecting Pegasus infection.
- Turn off iMessage – iMessage is a common mode of acquiring Pegasus because it is always on by default. You must turn it off to prevent getting exploited by Pegasus attackers. At the same time, you should also disable FaceTime since many attackers use it to infect iOS devices.
- Install the latest updates on your phone’s operating system – do not delay and keep your operating system updated.
There is no guarantee that these measures will work. First of all, spyware is sold at an exorbitant price due to its potency and effectiveness. Thus, if you’ve been a target of the spyware, it’s only a matter of time until Pegasus gains access to your correspondences, private information, and location.
Nevertheless, you must always be careful when using your phone, laptop, computer, or any other device. Always practice caution, secure information