The name spyware itself says a lot, espionage. See below, what is Pegasus spyware and what it affects , who is behind its creation and what were the main goals of the tool at the beginning. Despite not being a new model, it gained greater prominence in the media for being possibly linked to cases of individual espionage carried out by authoritarian governments.
- What is spyware?
- What is brushing scam?
What is Pegasus spyware and what it affects (Image: Anthony Shkraba/Pexels)
What is Pegasus Spyware?
All spyware has the function of invading the victim’s privacy – the essence of the attack – even though it has different ways to act with this intention.
Pegasus is no different, its main function is to be able to infect Android and iOS devices to, from there, perform spying actions , such as copying received messages, recording geographic location history, recording calls, activating microphones and cameras, among others , all this without the victim noticing.
Who is behind Pegasus spyware?
The minds behind the spy gimmick are from the Israeli technology company called the NSO Group. The NSO Group develops tools for spying or hacking systems that theoretically could help governments and security forces fight terrorism and other criminal practices. Its main marketed product is Pegasus spyware.
Israeli company logo (Image: NSO Group/Disclosure)
Who can be affected by Pegasus
As a tool focused on smartphones, theoretically, everyone who has Android and iOS devices are potential targets of its attacks. What has been discussed is the form of use, denounced in an investigation by Amnesty International and other organizations.
Like any tool, Pegasus spyware is amoral, the morality and ethics of use is defined according to the objective of daily employment. The Israeli company sells its product to governments, sometimes authoritarian, who end up using the tool to spy on dissidents, journalists and activists, destroying the privacy necessary for democracy.
At first, Pegasus works as an infostealer , but nothing prevents it from working as a keylogger either. The malware’s goal is to obtain information and actions from victims, with a focus on predicting negative social actions, but it becomes extremely dangerous when used for political purposes, especially in regions with a history of unsolved murders, such as the former territories of the former USSR .
Android and iOS devices are potential targets (Image: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels)
Is it possible to protect yourself?
As with all spyware models , some precautions can be taken to prevent the invasion, such as:
- Keep the operating systemand software up to date;
- Put a screen lock on your smartphone and use secure passwords to prevent unauthorized access;
- Restrict administrator privileges on the phone;
Due to their very professional nature, such as political, social and even military objectives, these tips may not be effective in preventing attack and information theft.
According to the latest investigations, there is one more aggravating factor: apparently, the attacks can be of the zero-click type , that is, the spyware does not depend on human interaction to infect the devices.
We can think of old or outdated devices facilitating attacks, but there are records of actions against devices running the current iOS 14.6. – in the case of Apple iPhones which are seen as secure systems.
The extent of the technology used by Pegasus spyware is not known , so it is very difficult to predict whether new smartphone updates will be able to fight the malware.
Smartphone companies are condemning the attacks, but point out that these actions are highly sophisticated and have specific targets, so they pose no risk to the vast majority of users. Nothing is impossible, especially when it comes to unscrupulous human interests.
What to do then?
The most we can do to protect ourselves is to try to identify whether our device is at risk of being contaminated, so we need to understand typical behaviors:
- Increasing crashes and slow response;
- New toolbars, Internet home pages you don’t remember to install;
- Batteries run out faster than normal;
- Difficulty logginginto secure sites;
- Unexplained increases in data usage or bandwidth usage. This could be a sign that spyware is looking up information and sending data to third parties;
- Antivirus and other security software not working.