New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Recently, you might have come across the news of Pegasus spyware hacking into people's mobile phones and being able to read their messages and tap calls. There have been reports that accused several governments including India spying on journalists, activists, and other key public figures using this spyware. However, the Indian government has said that these reports are "fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions." Here is all you need to know about the Pegasus spyware.

What is Pegasus spyware?

Pegasus is spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli company that specializes in cyber weapons. It first came into the limelight in the year 2016 when an Arab activist got suspicious of a shady message. There were reports that Pegasus was targeting iPhone users. Later Apple released an updated version of iOS that patched the security loopholes the spyware was using to hack phones.

A year after, it was found that Pegasus was equally capable of hacking Android phones as well. As a result, mobile phone companies updated their security system. In 2019, Facebook filed a case against NSO Group for creating Pegasus. At the same time, WhatsApp also informed its Indian users about the spyware via a message.

How does Pegasus spyware work?

Pegasus spyware can be covertly installed on mobile phones via a malicious website link. When the user clicks on it, the spyware is installed on the phone. It can also be installed via a security bug in voice calls through apps like WhatsApp. The spyware is so seamless that could be installed on the phone by simply giving a missed call to the user. In fact, the software deletes the call log entry so that the user wouldn't know that their phone has been hacked.

Once the spyware is installed on the targeted phone, it downloads the necessary modules that help it to access the data. The spyware has keylogging and audio recording capabilities which enables it to listen to calls and read encrypted messages.

Another interesting fact about the Pegasus spyware is that it can hide in the phone completely. If it is not able to communicate with its command-and-control (C&C) server for more than 60 days or is installed on the wrong device, the spyware self-destructs itself.

What threat does it cause?

The Pegasus spyware can hack the target user's phone and access all their personal information. It can even access encrypted chats made through WhatsApp. You would be surprised to know that this spyware can also read messages, track calls, keep a check on user activity within apps, gather their location data, and access video cameras on the phone. Not just this, the hacker can also listen through their microphones using the Pegasus spyware.

Should I worry?

Although the 2021 Project Pegasus revelations suggest that current Pegasus software is able to hack all recent iOS versions up to iOS 14.6. However, companies like Google, Apple, Facebook are continuously trying to update their software to patch the loopholes that are used by Pegasus to hack their customer's mobile phones. So, it's least likely to infect your phone unless you are a specific target of someone. Also, Pegasus is extremely expensive spyware that is used by big organisations or governments to keep surveillance on criminals and anti-social elements. Ordinary people are not at its risk.

Posted By: Sugandha Jha