What is Pegasus spyware, and how it hacks into WhatsApp

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Pegasus spyware was reportedly used to spy on Indians. A report published by an Indian online news portal revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of over 40 senior journalists, opposition leaders, government officials and rights activists.

What is it

Pegasus is a spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli company that specialises in what experts call cyber weapons. It was believed that Pegasus was targeting iPhone users. Several days after its discovery Apple released an updated version of iOS, which reportedly patched the security loophole that Pegasus was using to hack phones. In 2019, Facebook filed a case against NSO Group for creating Pegasus. The security researchers at Facebook were chasing Pegasus across their systems, and they found that the software was used to infect several journalists and activists in India. This was also the time when WhatsApp told the affected Indian users about it through a message.

How Does It Work

Once a hacker identifies a phone that needs to hacked into, they send the targeted user a malicious website link, and if the user clicks on it, Pegasus is installed on the phone. It is also installed through a security bug in voice calls made through apps like WhatsApp. In fact, so potent and secretive is this call method that Pegasus could be installed on the phone just by giving a missed call to the user. Once, the software was installed it would delete the call log entry so that the user wouldn’t know about the missed call.

What could Pegasus do?

Once Pegasus is on a phone, it can potentially spy on the targeted user completely and completely. Even encrypted chats like those created through WhatsApp were accessible to Pegasus. Security researchers have found that Pegasus can read messages, track calls, track user activity in apps, collect location data, access video cameras on a phone, or listen through their microphones.

Spyware app like Pegasus is extremely expensive. The cost is in millions of dollars, which can only be paid by big organisations or governments. In fact, NSO Group has said in the past that it sells its software only to governments. Pegasus like tools are not mass surveillance tools. They are used for targeted surveillance. So, unless you believe that a government or a powerful organisation has reasons to put you under surveillance, you shouldn’t worry about tools like Pegasus.