Published on Oct 17, 2021
Pegasus Report - Israeli Spyware Used to Target Journalists & Activists (NSO GROUP) Israeli Military Operation
Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones running most versions of iOS and Android. The 2021 Project Pegasus revelations suggest that the current Pegasus software can exploit all recent iOS versions up to iOS 14.6. As of 2016, Pegasus was capable of reading text messages, tracking calls, collecting passwords, location tracking, accessing the target device's microphone and camera, and harvesting information from apps. The spyware is named after Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. It is a Trojan horse computer virus that can be sent "flying through the air" to infect cell phones. NSO Group was previously owned by American private equity firm Francisco Partners, but it was bought back by its founders in 2019. The company states that it provides "authorized governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime."
Scan for Pegasus Spyware
Pegasus was discovered thanks to Ahmed Mansoor, a UAE human rights activist, who happened to be one of its targets. It was a spear-phishing attack: He received several SMS messages that contained what he thought were malicious links, so he sent those messages to security experts from Citizen Lab, and they brought another cybersecurity firm, Lookout, to the investigation.
Mansoor was right. If he had clicked, his iPhone would have been infected with malware — malware for iOS. For non-jailbroken iOS, to be precise. The malware was dubbed Pegasus, and Lookout researchers called it the most sophisticated attack they’d ever seen on any endpoint.
Pegasus has been attributed to the NSO Group, an Israeli company whose bread and butter is developing spyware. That means the malware is commercial — it’s sold to whoever is willing to pay for it. Pegasus relied on a whopping three zero-day (previously unknown) vulnerabilities in iOS that allowed it to silently jailbreak the device and install surveillance software. Another cybersecurity firm, Zerodium, once offered $1 million for an iOS zero-day, so you can imagine that it cost quite a bit of money to create Pegasus.
As for surveillance, let’s be clear: We’re talking total surveillance. Pegasus is modular malware. After scanning the target’s device, it installs the necessary modules to read the user’s messages and mail, listen to calls, capture screenshots, log pressed keys, exfiltrate browser history, contacts, and so on and so forth. Basically, it can spy on every aspect of the target’s life.
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