Pegasus – All You Need to Know About this Spyware


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Gradually, the world is getting more inclined towards internet technology, and gadgets are being used to perpetrate business-related, financial as well as personal tasks, making it easier for hackers to clasp desired data unknowingly. Cyber-attacks have augmented exponentially over the past few years owing to compromised privacy.

The word ‘Pegasus’ has created global headlines lately and has been threatening the lives of high-profile people since. But what exactly does Pegasus mean and what does it do?

What is Pegasus?

‘Pegasus’ is a malicious software (aka malware), devised by an Israeli technological firm – NSO Group, which was primarily built and marketed to “vetted governments” worldwide with the intention for use against criminals and terrorists. Pegasus is known to be the most powerful spyware ever developed which unlatches the route to perform various malicious activities given to its efficiency in self-destruction mechanism. Pegasus can infect devices and spy on the victim by transferring data to a master server in an unauthorized manner.

Why the name- ‘Pegasus’?

‘Pegasus’ is a famous term in Greek Mythology, referred to as a winged divine horse. The name was conjointly inspired by another potent spyware – Trojan horse. On that account, the name Pegasus was suggested, delineated by its potential to travel through the air into numerous phones.

What makes Pegasus being identified as ‘dangerous’?

Typically, a device gets attacked by a malware once the user clicks on a link or gets an email that has the malware embedded in it. However, the case is not the same for Pegasus.

Pegasus is known for its zero-click infection ability, which makes it so potent that there’s no requirement of any noticeable installations in the target device. In fact, the user might never know of its presence and nonetheless be at the brim of such a risk, labeling Pegasus to be the super spyware it is.

Another distinctive character is its capability of “active collection”, which provides attackers the facility to “control the desired information” from the targeted device. Pegasus can be installed through vulnerabilities in common apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. The targeted person doesn’t even have to be compelled to attend the notification to get hacked.

The spyware resides within the volatile memory or RAM of the infected device rather than the physical storage, making it troublesome to detect.

What kind of information is accessible to Pegasus?

Once installed, the spyware gets access to a wide range of permissions, allowing it to manage the location, emails, view the call logs and contact lists, take screenshots, control GPS, lay hold of instant messages and SMS, access browser history, take control of the device’s microphone, cameras, etc.

Who are the targets?

Well, as long as you belong to the pleb-group, there is hardly any chance that you might be under Pegasus surveillance. But in case you hold a high profile and are worth being watched, then yes- you might be the one under strict observation. Considering one owns a smartphone, no man is out of the probable possibility of being stalked.

Pegasus is high maintenance software and essentially requires huge capital for the perpetrator to control it, and that clearly means no one would invest such a prodigious amount for absolutely nothing. Hence, if you are a politician, journalist, or any human activist, then you are most likely affiliated with the threat spectrum.

Also, the targeted device has to be compatible with the NSO Group’s technology system. However, if a gadget isn’t compatible with the NSO system, Pegasus won’t be able to have an effect on it.

Since when in news?

Pegasus first came to the limelight when in 2016 it was broadcasted that it had unsuccessfully strived to attack the device of a UAE human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor. On his iPhone, he received a text message with links that would direct him to explore new secrets concerned with the persecuted prisoners in the country. Instead of following the given guidelines, Mansoor forwarded the messages to the Citizen Lab researchers, who traced the origin of the links and thereafter revealed that the link gave access to the Pegasus spyware that could exploit nearly unlimited confidential information on the device.

Later this year, a global consortium of 17 media organizations that include, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde, and The Wire reported under the name ‘The Pegasus Project’, revealed a leaked inventory of over 50,000 phone numbers in more than 45 countries that were potentially targeted for surveillance by misusing Pegasus.

Conclusion

There will be loopholes to every innovation, and solutions to these are also not difficult to find. If one remains alert and sound, every possible threat can be avoided. On that note, recently, the NSO Group has confirmed the temporary blockage of several government clients around the world from using its Pegasus spyware as the company investigates its possible misuse.

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Shalini Roy