Pegasus, The New Global Pandemic

Pegasus is a highly sophisticated surveillance software developed by an Israeli tech firm called the NSO Group. The company is well known for creating specialized cyber weapons.

The first report of Pegasus came into public knowledge in 2016 when the software hacked an iPhone of an Arab human rights activist. Few days later Apple released an iOS update protecting its devices against the software. Later, in 2017 it was found that the system can hack android devices as well, following which, Google also launched an OS update to counter the dangerous software. In 2019, Facebook sued NSO Group for creating the surveillance software. These incidents struck fear for everyone in the world as they realized Pegasus is capable of hacking even the largest companies in the world.

How exactly can a device get attacked by the Pegasus software? Multiple reports suggest methods used for the software to enter a phone. It could happen when the user clicks on unknown links that are mysteriously sent to their phone. Even a single missed call can automatically be installed on a phone, and upon installation of the software, it automatically deletes the missed call from the log entry, making it unaware to the user about the hacking that has taken place on their device.

According to cybersecurity research, Pegasus will be able to access calls. Messages, apps, user location, camera and microphone from the device that has been hacked.

On July 18th, it was reported that documents evaluated by international media and agencies showed a list of phones numbers that are targeted for surveillance using the Pegasus software. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that the spyware scandal involving the Israeli software firm and up to 50,000 smartphone numbers was “completely unacceptable” if true. “This has to be verified, but if it is the case, it is completely unacceptable,” she told reporters in Prague. It was also reported that 40 Indian journalists, as well as other public figures, politicians and activists, were attacked by the software.

Pegasus was meant to be used by governments on a per-license basis. NSO stated that it sells its spyware only to “vetted governments”. The home page of NSO Group’s website says the company creates technology that “helps government agencies” prevent and investigate terrorism and crime to save thousands of lives around the globe. NSO will not confirm whether the Indian government is a customer but the presence of Pegasus infections in the phones of journalists and others in India suggests that one or more official agencies here are actively using the spyware.

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