A spyware called Pegasus developed by the Israeli company, NSO Group, has been detected in over 45 countries.
Pegasus allows attackers to hack into smartphones and monitor, record, as well as collect data from the victim’s phone. This means that the hacker can listen in to calls, read messages, and even activate the camera and microphone to spy on the targeted person.
The Pegasus spyware can affect both iOS and Android devices according to to Citizen Lab, a watchdog group at the University of Toronto. Pegasus downloads itself to smartphones—without the user’s permission—by exploiting vulnerabilities in iOS and Android. It is spread through phishing, where the target clicks on a familiar hyperlink sent through a text or email.
Citizen Lab claims the spyware has at least 36 government customers, and at least 10 of these governments are using it to spy on people outside their countries.
The map below shows Citizen Lab’s estimation of the affected countries.
NSO Group has rejected Citizen Lab’s claims saying it does not sell its products in many of countries listed. The Israeli company said that their product was specifically designed not to work in the US, contrary to Citizen Lab’s claims. They further added that they were proud of Pegasus as it had helped prevents terrorists attacks and saved thousands of lives.
Using prior investigations into the Pegasus spyware, Citizen Lab says that it created a digital “fingerprint” that helped it identify servers on the internet that are distributing the software to victims.
Many groups, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), are alarmed by the spread of Pegasus and have issued warnings. The CPJ and Citizen Lab are both of the opinion that the software is being using to target journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and politicians. The groups say that the use of this spyware is a blatant violation of laws in the US and other countries.
The next time you get an unknown link from someone, think for a second before opening it. Because you just might be compromising on your safety.