Pegasus spyware

Recently, in a serious investigation, several security experts from the Guardian and The Washington Post along with Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories have detected traces of Pegasus spyware in journalists’ cellphones, that was being produced by the Israeli company NSO Group.

After the investigation, the experts have found that the Pegasus spyware has generated a Leaked list of 50,000 smartphones of high-profile targets.


However, the list of 50,000 high-profile targets includes all kinds of:- 

  • High-profile Politicians
  • High-profile Journalists
  • Businessman of big and leading companies
  • Government officials
  • Diplomats
  • Activists

50,000 high-profile targets

The presence of Pegasus spyware was detected on Android and Apple devices in 2016, and after the revelation of this NSO Group’s flagship product has been linked to the murder of well-known Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Now following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the investigation has inferred that at least 37 smartphones of several other journalists and their relatives were infected with the Pegasus software. 

By exploiting several security flaws in both Android and iOS the operators managed to obtain a database with 50,000 numbers of citizens from all over the world. 

Here, the list doesn’t notify who has decided to place these numbers, but what it makes it clear is that it depicts the objectives of the different countries that would have contracted the NSO Group’s services.

 Researchers identified potential NSO clients in 11 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Pegasus used in high-profile attacks 

However, after getting the results of the investigation the experts pronounced that the zero-day exploit generally infects the devices of high-profile targets. 

The experts also noted that some Pegasus were utilizing the license actively for cross-border inspection and in many other countries along with a record of offensive behavior by state security services.

This was one of the biggest attacks all over the world, and the governments of the world were soon captivated by such a large tool spyware attack. Apart from all these experts also asserted that this spyware is proficient in monitoring remotely with the help of a microphone and a camera.

Abilities of Pegasus spyware

The abilities that Pegasus spyware offer its operators to do and access on any infected Android and iOS devices:-

  • Microphone Recording
  • Emails
  • SMS
  • Location Tracking
  • Network Details
  • Device Settings
  • Browsing History
  • Contact Details
  • Social Networks
  • Phone Calls
  • Calendar Records
  • File Retrieval
  • Instant Messaging
  • Photos and Screenshots

Latest iOS hacked

Security researchers of Citizen Lab have separately observed that the NSO Pegasus spyware was being extended on an iPhone 12 Pro Max. According to the investigation, the experts claimed that this spyware has targeted the iPhone having the iOS 14.6 version, and it is the latest version.

While later they confirmed that the threat actors have hacked through a zero-day zero-click iMessage exploit, and the most important part of this attack is that it does not need any kind of interaction from the target.

Apart from this, the security analysts have also detected another zero-click iMessage attack that was being led to Pegasus and was installed on an iPhone SE2 phone that is having iOS version 14.4 and an iPhone SE2 that is having iOS 14.0.1.

However, this is not the first time when the Pegasus spyware conducted any attack, this spyware was previously observed in 2019, and now again in July 2021.

Damage Caused by Unlawful Surveillance

  • Just weeks before the murder of Cecilio Pineda in 2017, a well-known Mexican journalist phone was selected for targeting unlawful surveillance.
  • In Azerbaijan, there are only a few sovereign media outlets that remain active, all thanks to Pegasus spyware.
  • Between 2017-2021, from almost every major media company in India, 40 top-notch journalists were targeted for unlawful surveillance.
  • In international media outlets like CNN, The New York Times, Reuters, and Financial Times several journalists were targeted, and not only that among them, the editor of the Financial Times, Roula Khalaf was also targeted, and he is one of the highest-profile journalists.

But, apart from this, the security researchers are trying their best to get all the details of this attack, however, this is quite dangerous, and this attack has made a lot of damage to the privacy of the victims.

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BALAJI is an Ex-Security Researcher (Threat Research Labs) at Comodo Cybersecurity. Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.