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Pegasus spyware: No more privacy

It is a well-known fact that countries spy on their citizens and also spy on other countries and their leaders.

Jacob Mutisi

There is a new hacking software called Pegasus.

This is a kind of spyware that is developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group.

It is spyware that can infect millions of phones running either iOS or Android operating systems.

Pegasus spyware does not only enable the keystroke monitoring of all communications from a phone which include texts, emails, web searches but also enables phone call and location tracking, while also permitting NSO Group to hijack both the mobile phone’s microphone and camera, thus turning it into a constant surveillance device.

This is the most powerful piece of spyware ever developed by a private company. Once it has wormed its way on to your phone, without you noticing, it can turn it into a 24-hour surveillance device.

It can copy messages you send or receive, harvest your photos and record your calls. It might secretly film you through your phone’s camera, or activate the microphone to record your conversations.

It can potentially pinpoint where you are, where you’ve been, and who you’ve met.

The latest version of the Pegasus is so advanced that you do not have to install or click on anything to activate the malware infection.

Pegasus infections can be achieved through what is called “zero-click” attacks, which do not require any interaction from the phone’s owner in order to succeed. It is a malware infection that often exploits “zero-day” vulnerabilities.

It takes advantage of flaws or bugs in an operating system of the mobile phones which the manufacturer is not aware of.

Two years ago, in 2019, WhatsApp revealed that the same company NSO’s software was used to send malware to more than 1 400 phones by exploiting a “zero-day” vulnerability.

The company simply placed a WhatsApp call to a targeted device and the malicious spyware code was installed on the mobile phone even if the target had not answered the call.

Recently NSO has been exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple’s iMessage software, giving it backdoor access to hundreds of millions of iPhones.

Apple says it is continually updating its software to prevent such attacks but has never managed to contain the vulnerability of its devices.

Information at hand indicates that NSO has invested a substantial effort in making its software difficult to detect and Pegasus infections are now very hard to identify. Researchers suspect more recent versions of Pegasus only ever inhabit the phone’s temporary memory, rather than its hard drive, meaning that once the phone is powered down virtually all traces of the software vanish.

With this kind of software in existence, we no longer have privacy and freedom. Our governments do not need eyes and ears to spy on its citizens; all that is required is the cellphone number and you are at the mercy of the spy.

To know more about the Pegasus software/spyware you can call/whatsapp +263772278161 or email chair@zict.org.zw

Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers.

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