Pegasus spyware attack

If you have read or seen the news recently, then you would definitely come across a spyware called the Pegasus spyware. According to reports. The spyware has been used to spy on around 50,000 mobile devices. So the question here is what is this spyware? And how does it affect a mobile device? And should I be worried about it? We're going to answer all this question in today's post.

What is Spyware 

Before we start talking about Pegasus spyware let us first understand what is a spyware. A spyware is a malicious software which is specially designed to enter a user's computer or mobile devices, gather the data about them and then send that data to one other user who is the attacker. 

One of such spyware which is creating panic among people is a Pegasus spyware. Pegasus spyware is capable of reading your text messages, reading your contacts, and tracking all your passwords. It can attack both Android phones and iOS phones up to version iOS 14.6.

The spyware can be used to spy on 5,000 phones per year and up to 50 phones at once. Another interesting fact about the spyware is it gets its name from the Greek mythological winged horse called the Pegasus. It was named after the winged horse because it is a Trojan horse computer virus, which means it can be sent through the air to infect the mobile devices. 

History of Pegasus Spyware

You might be wondering why did they even create such a spyware in first place? So to understand this, let us talk a little more about the history of Pegasus spyware. Pegasus spyware was developed by an Israeli company called the NSO group. NSO stands for the first letter in the name of the 3 founders of the company (N - Niv Camri, S - Shalev hulio, O - Omri lavie). NSO claims that they have created this spyware exclusively for government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and terrors. For example it can be helpful in finding car bombs or suicide bombers, stopping drug trafficking, finding kidnapped children's and so on. But report says that the spyware has been used to spy on other people also, but we will get to talk about this later. 

How Does Pegasus Spyware Works 

Let us first see how does this spyware work now So as I've told you before when a spyware attacks the system, it can collect all the data and password and send it to the attacker.

Now, how does this infiltrate your mobile? So this Pegasus spyware is linked to an email or a text message which is known as the carrier of the spyware and this message or email is sent to the victim or the person they want to spy on, this message looks safe and from a genuine source which might convince the victim to click on them and when they click on them the spyware infiltrates the mobile and can access all the data and the root files. 

Also the link could be sent from WhatsApp or any other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and I message on Apple devices. It does not end there, according to reports from October 2019 Pegasus spyware could be installed by zero-click installation, which means the spyware can be installed just via a missed call. This could be normal call or a WhatsApp call. So for this the user does not even have to click on a link if the attacker has the victim's phone number and that's enough to infiltrate the victim's mobile and the victim will be unaware of this. 

Pegasus spyware can hide itself as far as possible and self-destruct in any attempt to eliminate evidence if it is unable to communicate with a command and control server for more than 60 days or even when it is on the wrong device. Pegasus can also self-destruct on command. Unless you're a cybersecurity expert, you cannot detect the spyware that's how frightening it is. So this is the working principle of Pegasus spyware.

Cases of Pegasus Spyware Hacks 

Now, let us talk about some cases where they have used Pegasus spyware to spy on individuals. According to a report in 2020 a list of 50,000 phone numbers was leaked to Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International which contained the list of phone numbers of people who are the people of interest, which means these were the people who were spied on or might be spied on using the Pegasus spyware. Comprehensive examination by Amnesty security lab of 67 smartphone affiliated with number on the list from 37 had either been successfully penetrated by Pegasus or sure signs of attempted penetration. 

Now talking about India, there are 300 Indian mobile phones were listed in the potential target for surveillance since during 2017 to 2019 when official Indian client of the NSO group which included, ministers journalists and businessmen. 

There is actually a case going on in the Supreme Court of India on a number of public interest litigation seeking a probe into allegation of swooping of government agencies using Pegasus spyware. 

Another case which occurred in May 2019 was WhatsApp said that Pegasus that exploited a bug in its code to infect more than 1400 Android phones and iPhones, which included those of government officials journalists and human rights activist, but WhatsApp soon fixed the bug. Pegasus spyware find such vulnerabilities and then attacks them. 

Then in later 2019 Facebook who owned WhatsApp initiated a suit against NSO claiming that Pegasus had been used to intercept the WhatsApp communication of a number of activists, journalists in India phone numbers of Indian ministers, opposition leaders, ex-election commissioners and journalists were found on the database of the NSO hacking target by Project Pegasus in 2021. Independent digital forensics analysis conducted on 10 Indian phones whose numbers are present in the data showed the signs of either an attempted or successful Pegasus hack. 

Taking the next case, French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his phone and also his phone number after reports said that he was targeted and spied on using the Pegasus spyware. He also ordered an overhaul of security protocols. A report suggested that he and 14 French Minister were flagged for potential surveillance by Morocco.

Now talking about another case published by the Amnesty International, during the investigation evidence is also a most of the family members of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were targeted with Pegasus software before and after his murder in Istanbul on 2nd October 2018. 

So these are some of the cases on how Pegasus spyware has been used.

How to Protect your Mobile Phone from Pegasus Spyware Attack

Now you might get this question, that, is my phone at risk or is there any chances my mobile phone is been spied on? So, usually what we have known is this Pegasus spyware is been used to mostly spy on media professionals, social activists, ministers, but it is unlikely that the average citizens will be spied on. 

Also WhatsApp stated that everyone who was infected by the spyware has been sent an alert message. So, if you haven't received one, then you can be assured that your mobile phone is not infected by the spyware, at least through WhatsApp. Also, WhatsApp released an update that will prevent infiltration by Pegasus spyware. 

Now, the Pegasus spyware is a private spyware which means it's owned by the NSO group and it is very unlikely to find the spyware on the dark web also NSO group charges thousands or millions of dollars for a single license which can be used to infect several smartphones and can cost up to $85,000.

According to 2016 price list NSO group charges customer $650,000 to infiltrate 10 devices plus an installation fees of $500,000 and it was only sold to the government agencies. 

So it is extremely unlikely that anyone would get access to this and infiltrate normal citizens mobile devices, but still there are certain precautions you can take to keep your mobile phone safe from attackers. 

First of all, do not open any link you get in your mail or messages that do not look genuine delete and just block the number 

Next step is application like WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook improves the security features in most of it update. So regularly keep updating your apps third use strong passwords for all your accounts and two-factor authentication for all your accounts, especially important ones like your Apple ID or your Google account. 

The next step is protect the device with a strong and complex password open do not use any simple name or pattern which might be easier for the attacker to crack. 

The next step is download application only from the official Play Store or App Store, be careful of the files you download from the internet, especially from the unreliable source or from a not secured website. 

Next, do not give permissions to mobile apps if they seem excessive can always grant permission later if they are really important. 

The next step is use a reliable security solution, which is easily available in the Play Store. These apps keeps regularly checking for any malware or virus in your mobile.

And the next precaution you can take is using a VPN, now a VPN or a virtual private network will encrypt all the traffic between your phone and any online resources that you're accessing whether that can be your email account social media or a website or visiting can basically hide your location.


So these are some of the tips you can follow to secure mobile devices. And with this we have come to the end of this post. I hope it was helpful, do leave a valuable thoughts in the comment section below and also let us know If you want more posts like this happy learning. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Please be kind enough to like it and you can comment any of your doubts and queries and we will reply them at the earliest do look out for more posts in our content gallery and follow Blueguard to learn more. Happy learning.

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