What is Pegasus spyware, and how to keep yourself secure from it?


What is Pegasus spyware, and how to keep yourself secure from it?

For the past few weeks, The Pegasus Spyware has become a hot topic. What is Pegasus? When did it come into existence? Who made and how does it really work? Shall you be worried about the spyware? What all data are at stake? How to detect the symptoms of getting spied? How to stay secure from threats like Pegasus Spyware?

There are so many unanswered questions but no proper answer available in the news media. To deal with that, today, we will try to answer all your questions regarding this digital threat. Keep reading to find some interesting updates and solutions.

What is Pegasus?

Back in 2016, an Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO Group came up with surveillance software that can anonymously collect all personal, real-time data from the victim’s device without anyone’s consent. 

What can Pegasus do?

According to Kaspersky (https://www.kaspersky.com/blog/pegasus-spyware/14604/), Pegasus spyware can easily read the victim’s SMS inbox, personal emails, listen to calls, take screenshots, location access, and access contact list and browser history. Another report published in Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/05/israel-is-selling-spy-software-dictators-betraying-its-own-ideals/), Pegasus is more than that, and with the evolution in the last five years, now it can access your device’s camera and microphone and makes your device a real-time surveillance device itself.

How does spyware works?

Usually, the hackers send a/multiple phishing link/s to the target victim through a written and clickable communication. It can be a message on your number/s, WhatsApp/ an email, or even a message on iMessage. Once the victim clicks on that link, it takes them to a spammy website, but the hacker gets complete access to the victim’s device at the backend. This has been a common practice for hackers for years now. Another scenario is ‘clickbait’.

A clickbait is nothing but a display image or headline that is made lucrative to make you click and see what’s inside. It can be some unbelievable offers like: ‘Get an iPhone 12 for free or ‘answer and win 1 crore instantly’, or it can be anything related to pornography. Several times in the past, we have seen that accounts get hacked, and hackers post indecent images from the victim’s profile. Also, you may have seen in the news how after clicking on 10000crore Coca-Cola (example) lottery message, people lose their bank balance in a fraction of a second.

What’s new about Pegasus spyware 2021?

Since its inception in 2016, the creators of Pegasus have updated their system and made it more troublesome. Now the latest version is called ‘Zero-click’ spyware attack. Here, you don’t have to click on any suspicious links; your device can get hacked without clicking on any link. But there are some precautions and best practices you can take to keep your data secure from these spyware attacks.

Which platform is at risk? Android or iOS?

Security has always been a big question on the Android platform. With open-source, it is more open to risks. But apple always assures the users with the highest level of Privacy as their commercial advertisement says – ‘Privacy? That’s iPhone’. But with the latest ethical test with spyware, iPhones are also vulnerable in front of this latest spyware. Even the latest iPhone 12 models failed to pass the tests.

How to stay secure?


How to detect if your device is infected? (technical stuff ahead – do at your own risk)

Some researchers at Amnesty International have developed a Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) tool to let you see whether the latest spyware targets your phone. 

To install this detection toolkit, you need to first install a Python Package which is available on the MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit) website. You’ll also find instructions on installation on their website.

The MVT requires a minimum of Python 3.6 to run on your system. macOS users need to have Xcode and Homebrew installed on their system. If you want to view forensic traces on your Android device, you’ll need to install specific dependencies.

You must have to take a backup of your device data to allow MVT to decrypt all files stored locally on your phone/s to see the Pegasus proofs. However, if you are testing a jailbroken iPhone, a complete file system dump can also be used for analysis.

Once a backup is created locally, MVT uses few indicators such as domain names and binaries to search for Pegasus-related traces of NSO. If you are using an encrypted iPhone backup, you can also use MVT to decrypt your backup without making a whole new copy.

The source code for the tool is also open source and available on GitHub and detailed documentation.

Best practices to stay secure (for everyone)

If you are a non-technical person, you can still follow some steps to keep your device secure from such attacks.

  1. Stay away from clicking random links/promotions/lucrative emails or images.
  2. Antiviruses (only authentic) for Android can add a layer of security from suspicious apps.
  3. Change sensitive and important passwords in every 90 days.
  4. Set strong passwords containing at least 8 digits, including number, symbol, upper and lower alphabets.
  5. If you are using Google chrome on your laptop, keep it updated whenever an update is available.
  6. If you are on Android, always install apps from Google PlayStore and not from any third-party website, even if they offer a free cracked version of an app. Remember, cracked apps are the favorite of the hackers.
  7. Stop sharing WhatsApp forwarded links without knowing the sources.
  8. Nothing comes for free, don’t click on any link offering free items or money.
  9. Amazon or Flipkart never offers iPhone at Rs.1 or if they do, always check their app and not any random link ends with ‘ .xyz ‘. It is crucial to check if the link ends with amazon.com or amazon.in or flipkart.com
  10. Google rolls out monthly security updates, and Apple rolls out the most stable updates on their devices. Always keep your devices updated, and please don’t delay with the excuse of internet usage.

So here was a brief about the cyber threats like Pegasus spyware and ransomware, and some best practices to follow. Let us know in the comments section if you have any suggestions or doubts.