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Pegasus, the spy program that hacked journalists, politicians and celebrities

Although pegasus has made headlines for allegedly spying on some politicians in Europe, this is nothing new. A real scandal has broken out when 17 international media outlets discovered that the software it was used to monitor 37 smart phones belonging to human rights activists and journalists.

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In July 2021, a research initiative called Project Pegasus, coupled with in-depth analysis by the human rights group Amnesty International, found that Pegasus had been used on a large scale against high-profile targets around the world.

According to the BBC, more than 1,000 people in more than 50 countries could have been affected by Pegasus. And thanks to Kim Zatter via Twitterit can be known that there is a list of about 50,000 phone numbers believed to be of interest to NSO Group clients that has been leaked to the media.

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How Pegasus works and how it affects iOS users

Pegasus is a spyware (spyware) for iOSthe operating system of the iPhone, designed and developed by an Israeli private security company called NSOGroup. A development that, in principle, is only offered to governments, state security forces and bodies. There is a version for Androidbut the attack method is different.

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What makes Pegasus so dangerous is that can be installed and run on all iOS devices up to version 14.6, and does not require the intervention of the victim for its installation and execution, becoming invisible and untraceable with the naked eye. Spyware can take control of the iPhone in the following ways:

– Clicking on a link on a website viewed from Safari

– By using any of the Applications of the system as Photos, Notes, AppleMusic either iMessage.

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Once Pegasus takes control of the victim’s iPhone, it is invisible. It can obtain and steal contact information, call inventory, messages, photos, browsing history, certificates, system settings and application monitoring.

This allows the attacker to compile messages from third-party mail apps, as the contents and messages of WhatsAppthe emails from gmail, Facebook, Telegram, etc. In addition, as if it were a spy effigy, it can intercept calls and messages, make audio recordings and get all the information of iPhone or Android phone remotely.

Besides, it is untraceable to the destination; that is, it is not possible to know for sure who is behind the malware. In fact, this dependency is one of the great claims of NSO Group, especially on track in the flourishing of clandestine activities.

Methods to detect if an iPhone is infected with Pegasus

If an iPhone user wants peace of mind, There are some ways to check if the terminal has been infected with Pegasus. Amnesty International has developed a utility to identify this malware called MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit), whose source code is available on GitHub.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that MVT it is not a plug and play software (technology that allows a computing device to be connected to a computer without having to configure), nor are there easy ways to install and run it. It has to be compiled for a device specific, which makes access difficult.

MTV cannot analyze the device directly, so before starting the process, it is necessary to make a full system backup on the computer; namely, MVT actually verifies iOS or Android backupNoel smartphone per se.

However, there are some third-party tools that make the process a bit easier. The applications iMazing includes detection of Pegasus as a free feature. The app uses the MVT kit. Instructions and download are available here.

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