Pegasus is a tracking spyware that was developed by Israeli NSO Group Technologies. It is a software that can be used to track your calls, messages and do any other activities on your phone whether it be iOS or Android. You will not be able to find out if your phone is being tapped or not because it is incredibly hard to detect.
Recently, a list of 50,000 phone numbers were found by the Pegasus Project among which 1000 individuals in 50 countries across the globe have been identified. Among these people were 3 presidents, ten prime ministers, a king, 189 journalists and 85 human rights activists. These people were supposed to be “off-limits” from surveillance according to NSO Group.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also accused of surveillance of over 1000 Indian citizens which caused quite an uproar. This leaked list showed identities of over 300 of these phone numbers which included journalists, politicians and even two of Modi’s ministers from his government.
Modi’s political rival Rahul Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi, “The prime minister and the home minister have used this weapon against the Indian state and against our institutions. The only word for this is treason, and this has to be investigated.”
How Does Pegasus Work?
It is pretty straightforward, an SMS or iMessage will be sent to your phone with a link that might look like any ordinary text. If you click on the link then the software will slowly start to take over your phone and can tap your location, camera, microphone, emails and anything that you do on your phone. It will try to take complete control of your phone.
Are You at Risk Of Pegasus Spyware?
If you’re not a political or public figure, it is unlikely that you’re on that 50,000 phone numbers list. Most of the people in that list are influential figures. NSO also claims that the spyware is only used on criminals like terrorists.
Even though there is evidence that the spyware has been misused by the government, regular citizens don’t have to worry about this. Only important political figures, journalists and people with a large influence have been tracked according to the reports.
Pegasus was first heard of in 2018 when a famous journalist Khashoggi was kidnapped and assassinated. Allegedly, he was being tracked by this malware.
Is it possible to detect Pegasus?
The Amnesty International Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) is a way you can find out if your phone has been hacked or not. It can be used on Linux and MacOS. It can analyse the data backed up on your phone and find evidence of malware infestation.
Amnesty International has also released a few tips to help you keep your phone secure
NSO Group’s response about the allegations
NSO Group insists that their software is only used for tracking criminals such as terrorists. They claimed to have exported the software to only 45 countries with permission from the Israeli Government.
NSO Group’s CEO Shalev Hulio denied all allegations and said that they have already investigated the matter and did not find any evidence pointing to those 50,000 phone numbers. He also said that it is company policy to cut off any clients that are misusing the software.