It's the biggest surveillance scandal of our times, check your iPhone for the Pegasus hack
When a whistleblower like Edward Snowden tweets "Stop what you're doing and read this. This leak is going to be the story of the year," we ought to listen. You might've already heard about the Pegasus spyware privacy debacle considering that it didn't even leave Apple's privacy pride and joy, the iPhone, unscathed.
If 10 prime ministers, 3 presidents, and a king," says a tweet about the surveillance scandal, aren't safe from the Israeli spyware that was only supposed to be used by law enforcement, what's left for a member of the general public who is someone's enemy, right?"
Well, Amnesty International has just released a way for them to try and determine whether Pegasus has been already installed on their phone. Given that even iPhones aren't protected by the nastiest, zero-click form of Pegasus installation, this is a rather timely tool.
How to check if you have the Pegasus spyware installed on your iPhone
Here's the official list of features that the Pegasus spyware guys say it can access on your iPhone:
- Monitor voice and VoIP calls in real-time.
- Siphon contacts, passwords, files, and encrypted content from the phone.
- Operate as an “environmental wiretap,” listening through the microphone.
- Monitor communications through apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Blackberry Messenger, and Viber.
- Track the phone’s location via GPS.
Why the iPhone? Well, the ability of the tool to detect the spyware on Android is somewhat limited, Amnesty International admits, and you can only check for compromised app installations or text messages and such. Here's what you need to do to probe your iPhone for Pegasus software remnants:
- Do an encrypted backup of your iPhone via iTunes or from Finder in more recent MacOS versions.
- Follow Amnesty's Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) installation instructions.
- Run MVT on the encrypted backup moved to these locations:
Windows: in %USERPROFILE%\Apple\MobileSync\ or %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\
Mac OS: in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/
As you can see, the operation of finding if your iPhone has been Pegasus-compromised isn't very easy, but then again the NSO Group's software is pretty sneaky and powerful, forcing Apple to comment that "attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals."
That's not a very comforting thought if the one targeted is you, of course, and both Telegram or WhatsApp's bosses say Apple is partly to blame for Pegasus. Still, if you follow the Amnesty International's guidelines you should be able to get a pretty good overview of the state of iPhone's security and privacy is in nonetheless.