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Pegasus: Who Is Spying On You?

Pegasus: Who Is Spying On You?
June 25, 2024

Imagine your phone is compromised without you even knowing it. What do you do, and how do you keep yourself and your devices safe? There are many spyware softwares that can get installed onto your phone, but few have the “dexterity”  Pegasus has. This is what makes it so chilling.  But what is Pegasus really and who was it developed by?

What is it?

The story of Pegasus begins in 2010 with the founding of the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-intelligence firm. Initially, Pegasus was marketed as a legitimate tool for law enforcement and governments to combat terrorism and crime. The software's ability to extract vast amounts of data from targeted phones made it a powerful tool for surveillance. However, concerns arose when Pegasus was linked to attacks on people involve  in politics, raising questions about the ethics of its use and sparking ongoing debates about government surveillance and digital privacy.

Who's on the Target List?

Pegasus isn't after your average smartphone user. Its targets are high-profile individuals, often those deemed a threat to national security or with sensitive information:

  • Journalists: Investigative reporters uncovering government corruption or human rights abuses are prime targets.
  • Lawyers: Legal professionals representing high-profile clients or cases involving government interests may be under surveillance.
  • Political Dissidents: Activists and individuals voicing dissent against the ruling regime are at particular risk.
  • Human Rights Defenders: Pegasus can be used to track communications and movements of individuals advocating for human rights.

What happens during such an attack and which prominent figures were affected by it?

Pegasus's trail of targets is a disturbing one, exposing a pattern of attacks on those critical of governments or with sensitive information. Here are some notable cases:

  • Jamal Khashoggi: The Washington Post journalist and vocal critic of the Saudi regime was reportedly targeted with Pegasus months before his brutal murder in 2018. The attack served as a chilling reminder of the potential consequences Pegasus could have in the wrong hands.
  • Mexican Journalists: A collaborative investigation revealed that Pegasus was used to target Mexican journalists investigating corruption and drug cartels. The spyware allowed access to their phones, potentially compromising their sources and putting them at risk.
  • Human Rights Defenders: Pegasus has been linked to attacks on human rights activists in countries like India, Morocco, and Rwanda. By monitoring their communications and movements, these governments aimed to stifle dissent and activism.
  • Political Opponents: Pegasus has also been used to target political dissidents and opposition figures. In Hungary, for instance, the phones of a prominent lawyer representing a challenger to the ruling party were reportedly infected.

The attacks often involved social engineering tactics. Targets might receive seemingly legitimate messages or emails with malicious links. Clicking on these links could unknowingly install Pegasus on their phones. In some cases, the spyware exploited vulnerabilities in messaging apps like WhatsApp, allowing for infection without any user interaction.

The consequences of these attacks were severe. Journalists lost confidential sources, activists faced increased threats, and political opponents were potentially undermined. The revelations surrounding Pegasus continue to fuel discussions on the ethical use of surveillance technology and the need for stricter regulations to protect individuals from such intrusions.

What exactly does Pegasus do?

Pegasus, named after the mythical winged horse, infiltrates your phone disguised as a legitimate application or through a "zero-click exploit," meaning no user interaction is required. Once installed, Pegasus becomes a silent observer, granting access to a user's:

  • Call History: Every call you make and receive is logged.
  • Text Messages & Emails: All your messages become accessible to the attacker.
  • Photos & Videos: Private photos and videos can be stolen.
  • Location Tracking: Your movements can be monitored in real-time.
  • Microphone & Camera Access: The attacker can remotely activate your phone's microphone and camera to record audio and video.

The Technical Underbelly

Pegasus is a complex piece of software, exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems like iOS and Android. Here's a glimpse into its technical aspects:

  • Zero-Click Exploits: These take advantage of software flaws, allowing Pegasus to install itself without any user action.
  • Kernel-Level Access: Pegasus operates at the core of the operating system, making it extremely difficult to detect.
  • Custom Modules: The software can be customized to target specific functionalities on different devices.

But can you detect it?

While Pegasus is most prevalent in countries with a history of human rights abuses, its reach can extend globally. Unfortunately, traditional anti-spyware programs may not be effective in detecting Pegasus due to its sophistication.

Is Pegasus still used?

The short answer is yes. Pegasus remains a powerful tool, and despite being patched in some instances by mobile OS updates, there's always the possibility of new vulnerabilities being exploited.

How to check for Pegasus 

Here's where Protectstar comes in. We offer a robust anti-spyware solution that includes a specific scanner designed to detect Pegasus and similar advanced threats. Downloading and running our Anti Spy will give you peace of mind and potentially reveal the presence of Pegasus.

If Infected, here is what to do:

  • Immediately back up your data: Secure your essential information on a separate device.
  • Factory Reset your phone: This will wipe all data, including Pegasus, but also erase your personal information.
  • Contact a security expert: Seek professional help to ensure complete removal and identify the source of the attack.

Remember, staying vigilant is key. By understanding the threat Pegasus poses and utilizing advanced anti-spyware tools like Protectstar, you can take back control of your phone's security.

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