Is Pegasus Really Cyberthreat?

Pratik Bagale

29 Jan 2022

Recently a few days ago NYT published a detailed report on Israeli spyware Pegasus. It became a hot controversial topic around the world and people are protesting to demand privacy rights from governments. Pegasus is the advanced spyware to track down anyone especially criminals, it serves many purposes such as call-text tracing, location tracing, browsing history, and checking the log of the users' computer and smartphone. Pegasus is such unique and the most powerful spyware, no one is ever able to know whether a device is infected by the Pegasus spyware, it runs in the background and even had access to the camera and microphone without letting users know about it.

Pegasus is mostly used by government agencies especially secret services. There are around 40 countries that are the clients of Pegasus spyware. According to the Guardian, more than 180 journalists around the world have been monitored using the software, including reporters in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Morocco and Hungary. The Guardian also claimed that pegasus is used against opposition leaders stating that, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rival Rahul Gandhi was placed under the surveillance of Pegasus. Pegasus remains more threat to political leaders and government officials than criminals, France President Emmanuel Macron.

Pegasus is developed by NSO, a well-known spyware company based in Israel. Israeli Newspaper Calcalist detailing the widespread unlawful use of Pegasus by the Israeli Police, the Israeli Police formally denied this, but some senior police officials have stated that the claims were true. NSO company continuously get threatened by high profile individuals and governments of different countries. Major tech giants Facebook and Apple sued NSO for infringing privacy. NSO company's employees live under high risk and keep profiles from secret agents from different countries and journalists. NSO company claimed that they only market Pegasus to government agencies for counter-terrorism and capturing high profile criminals. It required the Israeli government's permission for trading spyware.

Last year, after Pegasus controversies rise, Israel removed 65 countries from the cyber exports list. According to the Calcalist Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are among the nations that have been declined from the cyber export list. The necessary action was taken after the following countries breach the Pegasus protocols, claimed by the Israeli Defence Minister. The new list created allowing cyber exports to the following countries: Australia, India, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.

Apple’s head of security, Ivan Krstic, told The New York Times, “If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists, or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter.” On the other hand, Apple announced a 10 million dollar contribution to supporting cyber-surveillance researchers and advocates. Some article suggests that Pegasus mainly targets iPhones users. In India, after NYT published reports on Pegasus spyware, it created big controversies between the opposition and the ruling party. The opposition party leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted
"Modi Govt bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public. Govt functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason. Modi Govt has committed treason."

Pegasus spyware doesn't have darker sides at all, it helped to increase the many national securities leading to preventing attacks and threats. In the modern world, cyber crimes are increasing drastically, the Pegasus spyware can help to catch digital scammers and cyber attackers. Speaking of capability, Pegasus is capable to extract almost all software and is difficult for anti-virus software to identify Pegasus infections. Many cyber experts believe that cybersecurity should be increased and promoting spyware software for national security is the best way and the same goes for preventing misinformation and fake news.

Spyware is very expensive to own, many rich individuals can't own it unless having government permission. Spywares cost around $100,000 to $1 Million. NSO charges $500,000 for installing Pegasus and $650,000 for spying 10 Android users, $650,000 for 10 iPhone users, $500,000 for 5 Blackberry users, and $300,000 for 5 Symbian users. There are some Spywares made for self-benefit used for stealing and selling personal data to private individuals and companies. The famous Spyware attacks are CoolWebSearch, Olympic Vision, HawkEye, Agent Tesla.

To protect from spyware, keep your device updated to the latest version, never share personal details like OTP, Bank Account or Passwords with someone. Never click on them that you don't trust and especially never click the ads popup or link in porn sites, make sure your device has anti-virus and anti-malware software installed. Avoid downloading free software like mods. Deny the permission such as camera, microphone, location, storage, and contact info to untrusted apps. To be protected from high-end Spywares like Pegasus is very difficult, it doesn't leave any trace of spying and continuously running in the background without any lag as any other Malwares do. In rare cases, if you noticed that you are infected with spyware such as Pegasus, then immediately inform the cybercrime department.