Pegasus spyware: Apple updates iPhones to block this surveillance tech

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This is a case in point in terms of digital espionage technology. Security researchers have found evidence of an attempted or successful installation of Pegasus, made by an Israel-based cybersecurity company NSO GroupOn 37 phones of activists, journalists and businessmen. Activists and others appear to have been the target of covert surveillance by software aimed at chasing down criminals and terrorists.

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It has been a politically explosive issue that has put Israel under pressure not only by activists, but also by governments concerned about misuse of the software. France and the United States have expressed concern, and NSO suspends Pegasus privileges of some countries.

It hasn’t helped Apple’s reputation as a reliable technology supplier. On Monday, however, Apple reportedly Fixed a security hole that Pegasus exploited For installation on iPhones. Malware often uses a collection of such vulnerabilities to gain a foothold on the device and then expands privileges to become more powerful. NSO Group’s software also runs on Android phones.


The phones were on the list of an active organization with more than 50,000 phone numbers for politicians, judges, lawyers, teachers and others. Also on that list are 10 prime ministers, three presidents and a king, according to a International investigation released in mid-July by The Washington Post and other media outlets, although there is no evidence that being on the list means that the attack was attempted or successful.

Pegasus is the latest example of how vulnerable we all are to digital prying. Our most personal information – photos, text messages and email – is stored on our phones. Spyware can directly reveal what is happening in our lives, bypassing the encryption that protects the data sent over the Internet.

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50,000 phone numbers are linked to phones around the world, although NSO disputes the link between the list targeted by Pegasus and the actual phone. Dozens of people close to Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador were on the equipment list, as were reporters from CNN, the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But the phones of several people on the list, including Claude Mangin, the French wife of a jailed political activist in Morocco, have been infected or attacked.

Here’s what you need to know about Pegasus.

What is NSO Group?

This is a company that licenses surveillance software to government agencies. The company says its Pegasus software provides a valuable service because encryption technology has let criminals and terrorists in.DarknessThe software runs covertly on smartphones, which sheds light on what is being done by their owners. Other companies offer similar software.

Chief executive Shalev Hulio co-founded the company in 2010. NSO also provides other tools that track where the phone is being used, protect against drones, and mine law enforcement data to find patterns.

NSO has been implicated in other hacks by previous reports and lawsuits, including a . also includes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos hacked in 2018. A Saudi dissident sued the company in 2018 for an alleged role in hacking a device Related to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated that year inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.

What is Pegasus?

Pegasus is NSO’s most famous product. According to The Washington Post, it can be installed remotely without the surveillance target having to open a document or website link. Pegasus says just about all of the NSO clients it controls – text messages, photos, emails, videos, contact lists – and can record phone calls. It can also be Secretly turn on the phone’s microphone and cameras To make the new recording, The Washington Post said.

Common security practices like updating your software and using two-factor authentication can help keep mainstream hackers away, but security is really tough when expert, well-funded attackers siphon their resources onto an individual. let’s focus.

Pegasus should not be used to go after activists, journalists and politicians. “NSO Group” licenses its products only to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies For the sole purpose of preventing and investigating terror and serious crime,” the company states on its website. “Our review process goes beyond legal and regulatory requirements to ensure the lawful use of our technology.”

human rights group Amnesty International, however, documented in detail How it traced the compromised smartphone to the NSO group. civil laboratory, a Canadian security organization at the University of Toronto said independently Confirmation of Amnesty International’s findings After checking phone backup data.

Why is Pegasus in the news now?

forbidden stories, a Paris journalism non-profit, and Amnesty International, a human rights group, shared with 17 news organizations a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers for people they consider to be of interest to NSO customers.

News sites confirmed the identities of several individuals on the list and the infection on their phones. Out of the data of 67 phones in the list, 37 Displayed Signs of Pegasus Installation Or attempted installation, according to the Washington Post. Of those 37 phones, 34 were Apple’s iPhones.

The list of 50,000 phone numbers includes French President Emmanuel Macron, Iraqi President Barham Salih and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Also there are seven former prime ministers and three current prime ministers, Imran Khan of Pakistan, Mustafa Madbouli of Egypt and Saad-Eddin El Othmani of Morocco. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is also on the list.

Whose phone did Pegasus infect?

Apart from Mangin, Hungarian investigative outlet Direkt36 . two journalists in The Guardian reported that there were infected phones.

a The Pegasus attack was launched on the phone of Hanan ElatraThe wife of slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, said The Washington Post, though it was not clear whether the attack was successful. But spyware made it to the phone of Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, shortly after her death.

And seven people in india The Washington Post said the infected phones were found, including five journalists and an adviser to an opposition party critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

What does NSO have to say about this?

NSO acknowledges that its software can be misused. According to The Washington Post, it cut two customers in the past 12 months due to concerns about human rights abuses. “To date, NSO has rejected more than US$300 million in sales opportunities as a result of its human rights review processes,” the company said in a statement. June Transparency Report.

However, NSO strongly challenges any link to the list of phone numbers. “There is no connection between the NSO Group or Pegasus’ 50,000 numbers,” the company said in a statement.

“Every allegation about abuse of the system is about me,” Hulio told the Post. “This violates the trust we give to customers. We are investigating every allegation.”

NSO blocked some governments from using Pegasus while it investigates the current situation, NPR reported. In the past, NSO has also barred Saudi Arabia, Dubai and some Mexican government agencies in the United Arab Emirates from using the software, The Washington Post reported.

In a statement, NSO denied “false claims” about Pegasus that it said were “based on a misleading interpretation of the leaked data.” Pegasus “cannot be used to conduct cyber surveillance within the United States,” the company said.

NSO did not comment about its actions to suspend certain countries’ ability to use Pegasus or ensure the use of its software.

What are the consequences of the Pegasus position?

President Joe Biden’s top Middle East adviser met with an Israeli Defense Ministry official to express concern, Washington Post And Axios told.

Macron changed one of his mobile phone numbers and requested new security checks, Politico reported. He called a national security meeting to discuss the issue. Macron also raised Pegasus’ concerns The Guardian reported that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the country to investigate NSO and Pegasus. The Israeli government will have to approve export licenses for Pegasus.

Israel sets up a review commission to investigate Pegasus Situation. and on 28 July Israeli Defense Officials Inspect NSO Offices Self.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said that if the allegations are confirmed, The use of Pegasus is “completely unacceptable.” “Freedom of the media, a free press is one of the core values ​​of the European Union,” he said.

Nationalist Congress Party in India Demand for investigation into the use of Pegasus.

Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the US National Security Agency’s surveillance practices in 2013, Spyware sales banned In an interview with The Guardian. He argued that such tools would otherwise soon be used to spy on millions of people. Snowden said, “When we’re talking about something like an iPhone, they’re running the same software all over the world. So if they find a way to hack one iPhone, they hack them all.” Found a way to do it.” .

How can I tell if my phone has been infected?

Amnesty International released an open-source utility called MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit) Which is designed to detect the traces of Pegasus. The software runs on a personal computer and analyzes data, including backup files, exported from an iPhone or Android phone.

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