What Is Pegasus Spyware And How to Protect Yourself From It
Every time we go online we risk spyware infiltrating our devices and stealing our private data. On occasion, a particularly alarming piece of malware comes along, and none in recent times have been more formidable than Pegasus.
Table of contents
- What is Pegasus spyware?
- What is the NSO group?
- Who does Pegasus target?
- How does Pegasus get on your phone?
- WhatsApp zero-click exploit
- Apple Messages zero-click exploit
- How to tell if your phone's been infected with Pegasus
- How to protect against Pegasus spyware?
- General recommendations
- How to protect your phone with Clario
- Are you protected from Pegasus and other spyware?
Let’s take a look at the facts behind the infamous Pegasus spyware project and discuss how you can identify issues and protect yourself from infection.
Pro tip: Sometimes spyware sneaks by even the most tech-savvy users. In the age of ever-evolving malware, a solid security application is crucial, and Clario’s anti-spyware software make safeguarding your devices simple. All you need to do is:
- Download and install Clario’s free trial
- Create an account or log in to the dashboard
- Run a Spyware Detector tool
It’s that simple. Now let’s learn more about the Pegasus surveillance software.
What is Pegasus spyware?
Pegasus is spyware designed to infiltrate smartphones to monitor activity and steal personal information. While malware of this type isn’t new, Pegasus is a particularly effective breed because it's easy to install, difficult to detect, and grants access to all the data on a device. Investigators have linked the spyware, which is primarily associated with mobile phone surveillance, to multiple security breaches, many involving journalists.
Recently, research group The Citizen Lab discovered an exploit in multiple operating systems, including iOS, macOS, and watchOS, that could leave a device vulnerable to a Pegasus infection. Fortunately, Apple was quick to patch these issues with security updates.
Pegasus spyware boasts several standout features. The software is:
- Simple to install
- Difficult to detect
- Super effective
- Tough to remove
When it comes to Pegasus, you’re dealing with a high-level piece of spyware, and that’s nothing to scoff at. The program was designed for government use, which means quality and functionality is as good as it gets.
What is the NSO group?
NSO Group is a cybersecurity firm based in Israel. The company specializes in cyber intelligence and assists governments to mitigate threats and maintain public safety. NSO Group is the firm responsible for producing the Pegasus spyware, the development of which is the organization’s primary claim to fame.
The firm allegedly had a contract with former Panama president Ricardo Martinella. Martinella faced accusations of surveilling his political opponents, and the Pegasus spyware allegedly provided by NSO Group may have been involved in those operations. Evidently, the organization is more than a typical cybersecurity firm. NSO Group possess tools capable of retrieving classified information, influencing elections, and shaping the world.
Who does Pegasus target?
The Citizen Lab has identified widespread usage that spans continents. An investigation revealed that Pegasus surveillance operations may be taking place in at least 45 countries, including Mexico, United States, United Kingdom, France, and Canada, with some nations having a higher number of infections than others. The spyware has affected a variety of targets, including lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates, and politicians. We can’t be certain how many malicious operators are linked to government intelligence programs and how many are rogue agents.
Therefore, anyone could be a target. You may not be someone worthy of government-sponsored phone hacking, but, traditionally, spyware affects everyone. While most people infected by the Pegasus surveillance software have been high-value targets, once a tool like this is out in the wild, anyone can utilize it for malicious purposes.
How does Pegasus get on your phone?
As with any malware, a malicious operator must first get the Pegasus program onto a target device. While someone could install the software physically — using a fake charging cable or by bypassing your passcode — or with a wireless transceiver, the developers at NSO group designed the spyware to be more versatile than that, and the ease with which Pegasus can infect a device is alarming.
WhatsApp zero-click exploit
Malicious operators used a WhatsApp exploit to install Pegasus spyware on target devices. The vulnerability is disturbing because, as the name suggests, the infection can occur without you clicking a single thing.
In the case of the WhatsApp hack, operators were able to call a target’s phone and send infected data through to the device even if no one answered. Therefore, through no fault of your own, you could become the victim of a sophisticated spyware attack. WhatsApp has since fixed the vulnerability with a patch released on May 13, 2019.
Apple Messages zero-click exploit
Apple devices were vulnerable to a similar zero-click exploit until a security update patched the issue on September 13, 2021. iOS 14.8, iPadOS 14.8, watchOS 7.6.2, and macOS 11.6 contain the fix so if you haven’t installed the latest updates, now’s a good time to do so.
In the case of the Messages exploit, operators could send an infected PDF through Apple’s built-in messaging app and infect the device with Pegasus spyware. The vulnerability affected multiple Apple operating systems, including iOS and macOS.
How to tell if your phone's been infected with Pegasus
To identify a compromised phone, you can search for the telltale signs of a mobile malware infection, which include:
- Device overheating
- Battery draining quicker than expected
- Device performing poorly
- Inexplicable increase in data usage
Additionally, Amnesty International has created a toolkit that helps analyze your iOS or Android device for a Pegasus infection. You can download the Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) from the relevant GitHub page; however, experts in the field of forensic research are the target audience, so it’s not for the average user.
How to protect against Pegasus spyware?
While Apple and WhatsApp have fixed the two biggest zero-click exploits, you’re still vulnerable to infection through other means. Malicious operators can install malware with physical access to a device, wirelessly, or with infected files sent through email or a web browser. Additionally, more zero-click exploits could exist, and you should do everything in your power to protect yourself from an attack.
Prevention is better than the cure, and several tips can help protect you from Pegasus and other malware attacks:
- Always keep software up to date
- Never open email attachments from unknown sources
- Avoid disreputable websites
- Never click suspicious links
- Block pop-up windows whenever possible
- Avoid jailbreaking devices
- Install security software
The right tools and understanding will put you in a good position to protect yourself and avoid a malware infection.
How to protect your phone with Clario
Why take any chances? Clario’s real-time antivirus and built-in malware scanner for Android add an effective layer of security to your mobile devices. Here’s how simple it is to protect your Android phone:
1. Download Clario and complete the installation.
2. Create a Clario account or login.
3. From the Clario dashboard, scroll down to Antivirus and tap Scan.
4. Tap Start scan.
5. Allow Clario to access the files it needs to scan.
6. Wait for Clario to complete the scan of your system.
7. Turn on the Automatic daily scan to stay safe.
That’s it. Clario will now protect your phone from infection, and the anti-malware scanner can perform a thorough scan when needed.
Are you protected from Pegasus and other spyware?
Malware is always evolving, and keeping up with the latest trends can be a burden. You can, however, make life easier by utilizing the right tools. Clario constantly updates its malware database to ensure you’re protected from the newest and greatest threats, so download and install your free trial now to secure your device.