How to find out if your phone is infected with spyware

Unknown caller alert on a smartphone.
Photo credit Getty Images
By , WWJ Newsradio 950

Could someone be reading information or looking at photos stored on your smartphone right now without you knowing about it? One app says it can help you find out.

A recent study conducted by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories shows thousands of phones have potentially been infected with Pegasus spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israel-based surveillance private contractor. Targets of the spyware infection included activists, journalists and politicians all over the world.

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Pegasus spyware infiltrates devices through “zero click” attacks, explained Amnesty International. These attacks are particularly dangerous because they do not require targets to click on links or attachments.
Devices can be accessed as long as those initiating the attack know their phone number and can send them a message or call, Business Insider said of the attacks.

“Pegasus is even more scary because it is invisible and difficult to detect or remove,” said Forbes in a report Sunday. Amnesty International said Pegasus can infect iPhones, including the newest models, even though the company claims its devices are more difficult to hack than others.

However, iVerify – a security toolkit developed by Trail of Bits engineering company – can detect Pegasus on both iPhones and Androids, said Forbes. Trail of Bits security engineer Ryan Stotrz said Friday in a tweet that the latest version of the app can detect the tricky spyware.

Although Amnesty International also released a tool for detecting Pegasus that is available on GitHub, Forbes said it is difficult to use. The outlet also said iVerify is approved by Apple, an unusual distinction for a security app. It is also available on Google Play for Android users.

While smart phone owners can download the app now for a small fee ($2.99 through Apple), they should know that Pegasus infections are rare.

“It is extremely unlikely you have been targeted by Pegasus,” said Forbes.

NSO Group claims Pegasus spyware is meant to be used only on criminals, but Amnesty International said the company’s customers have used the program to “used to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale.”

The Washington Post reported last week on the wife of a political activist whose phone was hacked with Pegasus.

According to The Verge, Pegasus is used by governments to spy on their citizens. NSO Group says that they cut off customers if there is evidence that they abused the product, according to the outlet.

If your phone has been a target of a Pegasus zero click attack, the solution could be simply shutting down the device and turning it back on, which can disrupt the spyware access temporarily, according to Forbes.
The outlet also recommends updating phone software regularly and, for people in groups that could be targeted, deleting iMessage until Apple can fix the vulnerability.

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