Pegasus spyware: The stealth with which it infects phones

Source: Business Standard

What is the News?

India’s name has figured among countries that used Pegasus spyware to potentially target politicians, journalists, and activists.

About Pegasus:
  • Pegasus is a type of malicious software or malware classified as a spyware.It has been developed by Israeli security firm NSO Group.
  • Purpose: Pegasus is designed for three main activities:
    • collection of historic data on  a device without user knowledge
    •  continuous  monitoring of activity and gathering of personal information and
    • transmission of this data to third parties.
How does Pegasus infiltrate devices?
  • Pegasus is part of a tier called “zero click exploits” that do not require the victim to do anything. Instead, the spyware is designed to take advantage of bugs in popular apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp to infiltrate the system.
  • Pegasus can also use unsecured websites to infiltrate a device. These are called network injection attacks and also happen without the victim’s intervention. The device is infiltrated within milliseconds of visiting such a website.
Who can use Pegasus?
  • NSO claims it only sells the software to verified government agencies with a contractual clause that the spyware can only be used in cases of suspected crime or terrorist activity.
  • In practice, the clause is unenforceable — any buyer can then use it as they please.
What can Pegasus spyware do?
  • Once installed, Pegasus takes a wide range of permissions allowing it to monitor location, emails, grab contact lists, access browser history, take control of the phone’s mike and cameras etc.
  • Pegasus can also be deleted remotely. It’s very hard to detect and once it’s deleted, leaves few traces.
  • It can also be used to plant messages/mails which is why there are theories it may have been used to plant fake evidence to implicate activists in the Bhima Koregaon case.

 

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