Security experts recently found malware on the smartphones of corporate executives, journalists, and activists. The program, dubbed Pegasus, was developed by an Israeli cybersecurity firm with the express purpose of pursuing terrorists and criminals.
According to the disclosure, 50,000 phone numbers of extremely important people, including attorneys, judges, and legislators, were hacked. According to the Washington Post, this list of compromised people also includes a monarch, three presidents, and eleven prime ministers.
Pegasus is a current illustration of why individuals must take digital surveillance seriously. Because the majority of personal information is stored on phones, spyware makes it simpler to compromise users without really bypassing encryption measures for data sent over the internet.
Continue reading to discover more about Pegasus, its ramifications, and how you may protect yourself.
The NSO Group
The business behind Pegasus is called NSO Group, and the corporation’s primary objective is to license surveillance software to government agencies. According to the NSO Group, Pegasus is critical because it circumvents encryption, which terrorists and criminals have profited from for a long time. The program operates invisibly on phones and collects data on the user’s activities.
Additionally, the Israeli spy business offers information-gathering equipment such as phones and guards against drones and identifies trends via the mining of law enforcement data.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time the NSO Group has been accused of wrongdoing. In 2018, a Saudi dissident sued the firm for its alleged involvement in the hacking of Jamal Khashoggi’s device. Additionally, the firm was implicated in the Jeff Bezos breach that same year. Several other lawsuits and earlier investigations have accused the NSO Group of other breaches.
More about Pegasus
Pegasus is by far the most popular product offered by NSO Group. Without the owner of the device clicking a link or reading a document, the software may be installed on that device. Pegasus delivers all data to NSO Group clients, including videos, pictures, emails, text messages, and contact lists. Additionally, the program may be used to covertly activate the cameras and microphone on a device to record.
While two-factor authentication and regularly upgrading your device’s applications and operating system may help keep hackers at bay, these measures provide little to no protection against organizations that focus all their efforts on a single person.
Pegasus is intended only to be used by government and law enforcement organizations to prevent and investigate terrorists and criminals, according to the NSO Group. Regrettably, it seems as if Pegasus is being utilized to prey on innocent people.
Why is Pegasus currently in the news?
The reason Pegasus has been making headlines recently is that Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories shared a list of 50.000 phone numbers with 17 news organizations, thinking the numbers would be of significant interest to the NSO Group’s clients.
Numerous news outlets independently confirmed the names of numerous people on the list and determined whether or not their devices were infected. The figures included prominent figures such as South Africa’s President, Iraq’s President, and France’s President. Additionally, the list featured three current and three past prime ministers.
Scanning devices for Pegasus installation
Users interested in determining if their devices are safe against Pegasus may utilize the MVT (The Amnesty International Mobile Verification Toolkit). The app is compatible with MacOS and Linux and validates your device by examining backup files and settings. While the MVT cannot give a definitive response, it can identify indications of compromise, which is more than sufficient information to establish whether an infection exists in the first place.
How can you protect your devices more effectively?
While there is no definitive answer to Pegasus at the moment, the following measures may be taken to mitigate the risk:
- Open links only from reputable sources and connections.
- Ascertain that your device is up-to-date with any necessary updates and patches.
- Physically restrict access to your phone.
- Stay away from free and public Wi-Fi networks.
- Enable remote wipe capabilities and protect your data with encryption.
Most importantly, utilize a reputable VPN, such as NordVPN, anytime you connect to the internet. By doing so, you will increase your online safety, security, and anonymity. Again, although these measures may improve your cybersecurity, they do not constitute a permanent defense against Pegasus.