What is Pegasus spyware? How and what it can do? Can you detect it? – Explainer of the Day


On July 18, 2021, according to the Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a French media non-profit, Israeli spyware Pegasus may have been used to spy around 300 Indians, including around 40 journalists, scientists, government officials, a constitutional authority, three opposition leaders, and two cabinet ministers in the Central government.

Last time in 2019, Israeli spyware Pegasus was allegedly used to spy on activists, journalists, senior government officials, and lawyers across 20 countries, including India. WhatsApp had then sued the Israeli spyware maker NSO Group.

What is Pegasus?

•Pegasus is highly sophisticated spyware developed by the Israeli spyware maker NSO Group. The spyware does not attack random users. It is a targeted surveillance tool.

•The spyware was first reported in 2016 during a failed attempt at installing it on the mobile phone of a human rights activist. It is known by other names as well such as Trident Q Suite.

What can Pegasus do?

•The spyware can be used to infiltrate mobile phones, both Android and iOS.

•It can track calls, read text messages, track locations, collect passwords, access the camera and microphone of the target mobile device.

How does Pegasus spyware attack?

•The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto helped WhatsApp to investigate the cyber-attack.

•The Citizen Lab noted that the spyware targets a vulnerability in the WhatsApp VoIP stack that is used for making audio and video calls. Even a missed call enabled Pegasus to gain access to the target’s mobile phone or a device.

•The Lab further noted that the spyware incorporates other ways to hack into the devices or mobile phones such as getting the targeted user to click a malicious website link and with a zero-click attack method which requires no action on the part of the target user.

Can you detect Pegasus on your phone?

•There is nearly no way to detect if the phone is infected with Pegasus spyware.

•The spyware is highly sophisticated with self-destruct and anti-forensic properties.

•As per the Kaspersky researchers, the spyware is highly diligent at hiding itself. The spyware will self-destruct if it is not able to contact its command-and-control server for more than 60 days or if it is found on the wrong device and wrong SIM number.

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