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Pegasus explained: everything you need to know

If you have seen Pegasus in the news and wonder what it is all about, we bring you the details and everything you need to know about it.

What is Pegasus?

Pegasus is software created and maintained by an Israeli company named NSO. It is used to spy on targeted phones. The software is so powerful that it can send data back to the controller from an individual’s phone, including text messages, photos, emails, videos, contact lists.

The software can turn on hardware on the phone, allowing it to record phone calls and turn on the microphone and cameras.

According to information from the Washington Post, Pegasus can be installed on your phone remotely, and you don’t need to be tricked into opening a document or web link.

What is Pegasus meant for?

According to NSO, Pegasus is not meant for just anybody. It is meant for high-level law enforcement work, including preventing terrorism.

“NSO Group licenses its products only to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of preventing and investigating terror and serious crime. Our vetting process goes beyond legal and regulatory requirements to ensure the lawful use of our technology as designed.”

Despite NSO’s claims about what Pegasus is meant for, the software has been fingered as a culprit when activists, journalists, and human rights organizations have their devices compromised. Amnesty International has traced a hack to the company, a fact independently verified.

Who have been victims of the use of Pegasus?

The list of victims that have been targeted is long, with more than 50,000 entries, according to data shared by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.

The victims include high-profile individuals, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Iraq President Barham Salih, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Also included are Pakistan PM Imran Khan, Egypt’s PM Mostafa Madbouly, and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani.

Confirmed cases of infection include journalists at Direkt36, a Hungarian investigative media house. A phone belonging to the wife of late Saudi columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, was also confirmed to have been breached. Five journalists and an adviser to a political party in India also have infected phones.

Other cases include volunteers for several Palestinian human rights groups.

Which kinds of devices are affected?

Apple, which prides itself on the security of its products, has been a target of Pegasus attacks. Its iPhones have been compromised, transmitter data belonging to the owners to Pegasus controllers.

However, Apple announced it had blocked a security loophole that enabled Pegasus installation on its phones. The Cupertino-based company has also sued NSO to bar its application from running on any Apple device and force the Israeli company to delete any data Pegasus had obtained from their device. It plans to donate $20 million and any proceeds from the lawsuit to organizations advocating for security.

Android phones have also been infected by Pegasus.

NSO has sought to defend its practices with Pegasus, including its process to prevent the abuse of its software. According to an NSO spokesperson, “We look forward to presenting the full information regarding how we have the world’s most rigorous compliance and human rights programs that are based the American values we deeply share, which already resulted in multiple terminations of contacts with government agencies that misused our products.”

The company claims it has blocked some governments from accessing its software. It also states Pegasus cannot be used in the United States and will take legal actions if it detects unauthorized use.

What is the fall-out for NSO?

America has designated NSO as not eligible for any American-made product, a devastating blow as it prevents the company from using computers, phones, software, and developer tools that US companies often make. It means companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple are barred from selling their products to NSO.

President Macron has had to change one of his mobile phone numbers, and he has discussed the Pegasus issue with the Israeli Prime Minister.

Israel is also investigating Pegasus.

Is your phone infected by Pegasus?

You can check if your phone is infected by Pegasus by using a tool released by Amnesty International, which you can find here. The software is to be installed on your computer, and it will analyze backup files from your phone to find traces of Pegasus.

Written by HackerVibes

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