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How to know if your smartphone has malware

The security of your smartphone or device is key nowadays. Even if they tell you that the phone or tablet you use is safe, nothing guarantees that this is the case. You also can’t be sure that your iPhone phone or iPad tablet is 100% safe just because they’re developed by Apple.

A program called Pegasus  can make you rethink how safe your device is. Pegasus  is a spyware program (a type of malware that collects information) installed on devices running certain versions of iOS.

In July, it was revealed that security researchers discovered evidence that Pegasus spyware was used on the phones of journalists, politicians and activists.

Who’s behind Pegasus

Developed by Israeli cyber firm, NSO. NSO creates technology that helps government agencies prevent and investigate terrorism and crime.

This spy app was discovered in 2016 after a failed attempt to install it on an iPhone belonging to a human rights activist. A subsequent investigation revealed details about the spyware, its capabilities and the security vulnerabilities it exploited.

Patch that resolved the issue

Apple released version 9.3.5  of its iOS software to fix vulnerabilities that Pegasus was taking advantage of. Always, the idea behind an update is to protect customers. Apple does not disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until an investigation is conducted and necessary patches or releases are available. You can see a list of the latest versions on the Apple Security Updates page.

Pegasus, a tool for law and governments

When this tool was discovered, many put the focus on the violation of people’s rights. The company behind Pegasus wanted to emphasize that it sells its technologies only to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They use it for the sole purpose of saving lives by preventing crime and terrorist acts.

The Israeli company’s technologies are used every day to crack down on paedophile, sex and drug trafficking networks, locate missing and abducted children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings and protect airspace from the disruptive penetration of dangerous drones.

Tool to know if you have Pegasus installed on your device

If you are curious to know if Pegasus is installed on your iPhone or iPad the cnet page lets you know. Spyware can be installed remotely on the target iPhone or iPad without the owner taking any action. Gives the person or organization that installed it full access to the device and all the data it contains. That includes texting, emails and even recording phone calls.

A management software called iMazing  recently updated its application for Mac and PC. It now includes Amnesty International’s Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT). It allows you to know if we have Pegasus on a device since it allows you to detect spyware.

Download iMazing for your computer from the company’s website. The app is paid, but you can run the full spyware trial with the free trial. Once downloaded, install iMazing and then open it.

What happens if we have it installed on our smartphone

If after running the diagnostic test you get an alert that you have installed this application does not have to panic. It could be a false positive. iMazing willtell you to send the report to their customer supportteam, who will then perform a more detailed analysis.

However, the company suggests that if you or a family member is active in a “politically sensitive context” and you have a positive report, immediately remove your SIM card and turn off your iPhone.

The odds of getting a truly positive report are very low, but at least you’ll have some peace of mind. For more security tips, double-check your smartphone’s settings and make sure you’ve turned on 2-step verification. And above all, that you have the latest version of the operating system of the device.

Summary

The amount of information we have on our smartphones is huge. It is very important that we navigate safely and be clear about what we have installed on our devices. Violation of users’ rights can be a problem if you are using your device solely for personal use and a third party accesses that information. There is a fine line between your privacy and a government’s or law enforcement’s right to information.

You only have to do a search on Youtube to realize that Pegasus is a topic of interest. Many Youtubers make videos explaining what it is. However, few videos will show you an infected device, intendable for reasons of privacy and anonymity. If you have that program installed it is likely that you have done something that borders on legality, or simply, it is a false positive. In any case, it’s always a good idea for your smartphone to be up-to-date and with the privacy options to the fullest.

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