Avast Academy Security Malware What Is Pegasus Spyware and Is Your Phone Infected with Pegasus?

What Is Pegasus Spyware and Is Your Phone Infected with Pegasus?

Pegasus is the most technically sophisticated spyware in history — used to track political leaders, journalists, and activists worldwide. And while Pegasus may not be a major threat to the average person, many other types of spyware are. Read on to learn what Pegasus is, who’s behind it, and how a spyware detection tool like Avast One can keep your communications private.

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Written by Ellie Farrier
Published on September 30, 2022

What is Pegasus spyware?

Pegasus spyware is zero-click mobile surveillance software designed to infiltrate iOS and Android devices to secretly collect information. Pegasus has extensive data-collection capabilities — it can read texts and emails, monitor app usage, track location data, and access a device’s microphone and camera.

Pegasus was developed by the Israeli NSO Group to combat terror and crime, but it has since been deployed as a cyber weapon in more controversial espionage attacks on political figures, well-known journalists, and other civil society leaders. As zero-click spyware, Pegasus can be installed on a target’s phone without the victim needing to take any action themselves.

What is NSO Group?

NSO Group is an Israeli cyber-arms company that created Pegasus and licenses it to government agencies around the world — many of which have deployed its surveillance capabilities as cyber weapons to spy on high-profile targets.

In 2021, due to the controversial licensing of Pegasus spyware to questionable state actors, NSO Group was added to the United States Entity List, which highlights companies or other organizations deemed a threat to US national security interests. Recently, NSO stated that it will refocus its Pegasus sales on NATO-aligned countries.

How Pegasus spyware infects your device

Initially, Pegasus spyware spread through phishing attacks, where victims are sent text messages that include links infected with malware. If the target clicked on the link, their phone was infected with Pegasus. Now, Pegasus spyware has zero-click surveillance capabilities, meaning it can spread and infect phones without a victim having to do anything at all.

After your phone is infected with Pegasus, it saves your login credentials with an undetected keylogger, then sends your personal information — such as device location, texts messages, app usage data — to NSO Group’s servers in the cloud.

Pegasus spyware infects your device, collects your login info via keylogger, then sends info to NSO Group's servers.Pegasus spreads through malicious code, collecting the data of targeted victims and storing the information in NSO Group’s servers.

Is your phone infected with Pegasus spyware?

If you’re a regular person, it’s unlikely your phone is infected with Pegasus spyware, because each Pegasus license is prohibitively expensive. But if you’re a high-profile target such as a politician, well-known journalist, or political activist, there’s a chance that Pegasus is tracking you. Unfortunately, there aren’t any telltale signs your phone is hacked to help you detect it.

How to remove Pegasus spyware from an Android phone

If you suspect your Android is infected with Pegasus spyware, you can use the Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) — a specific spyware removal tool developed by Amnesty International. It requires Linux or macOS and some technical prowess, but since Pegasus relies on unknown zero-day exploits, it’s your best bet for removing Pegasus spyware from your Android.

How to remove Pegasus spyware from an iPhone

Once Pegasus has taken hold, it’s difficult to remove the spyware from your iPhone. Restarting your phone may temporarily stop Pegasus from tracking you, and removing all unknown devices and connections from your messaging apps, location settings, and cloud access may temporarily block surveillance. For a more permanent solution, install MVT and run a thorough check.

Stay private from spies and snoops

Pegasus may not be an immediate threat for most people, but other types of spyware and online surveillance software are. That’s why we developed an award-winning threat-detection engine that powers our cybersecurity software.

Avast One will detect spyware and other malware before it can infect your device, keeping your system clean and making sure your personal information stays private. Stay safe online and install Avast One today.

Get free spyware protection and removal with Avast One


Get free spyware protection and removal with Avast One

Ellie Farrier