Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that Pegasus Spyware has infected devices of many Finnish Diplomats.
“Finnish diplomats have been targets of cyber espionage by means of the Pegasus spyware, developed by NSO Group Technologies, which has received wide publicity. The highly sophisticated malware has infected users’ Apple or Android telephones without their noticing and without any action from the user’s part. Through the spyware, the perpetrators may have been able to harvest data from the device and exploit its features.” reads a statement published by the Ministry.
The NSO Group is a leading Israeli cyber- company which made it to the news after 50,000 phone numbers worldwide on a leaked list were linked to its notorious spyware Pegasus. The spyware was used to monitor high-profile targets, including but not limited to the heads of states, journalists, human rights activists, and political rivals, and in this case, Finnish Diplomats.
“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is continually monitoring events and activities in its operating environment and assessing related risks. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs monitors its services and strives to prevent harmful activities. The preparation of and decisions on foreign and security policy, in particular, are matters that attract much interest, which may also manifest itself as unlawful intelligence.” concludes the Ministry. “The Ministry responds to the risk by various means, but complete protection against unlawful intelligence is impossible.”
The key futuristic feature of Pegasus spyware is that it can be installed on a targeted phone with just a missed call or text message; it uses a zero-click iMessage exploit to deliver a chain of zero-day exploits to invade security features on the smartphone. The evasion will install the Pegasus spyware without the user’s permission and knowledge.
The critical data that is being extracted using Pegasus spyware is:
The silver lining is that the information has been classified as Level 4 (the lowest level of classified information) or public. However, its sources may be subject to diplomatic confidentiality.
It is exceptionally difficult to protect against such sophisticated attacks due to the extensive use of zero-day exploits, but not impossible. Mentioned below are some best practices that can be adopted to safeguard oneself against Pegasus & such Attacks to the optimum level of security.