July 26, 2021

How do I know if I have been infected by the monitoring software?

In the wake of the revelations about Pegasus, the spyware of the Israeli company NSO, many journalists, politicians, businessmen and activists wonder if their smartphones could have been monitored by the states that are. clients: Morocco, Hungary, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, and several other countries.

Their fear is legitimate since NSO has selected 50,000 mobiles worldwide for a potential infection, including a thousand in France, without knowing exactly how much was actually penetrated by Pegasus. This list is not public and it is not easy to know if a mobile has been infected: the traces are hidden in a corner of the device which can only be accessed by plugging it into a computer.

Complex detection tools

The revelations about Pegasus were brought by a consortium of 17 media, including The world, coordinated by the French non-profit association Forbidden Stories, backed by the technical expertise of the English NGO Amnesty International. The latter is currently facing many requests that prevent it from offering its IT expertise within a reasonable time to anyone who requests it.

But it published on July 16 a set of tools to check the presence of Pegasus on an Android or Apple smartphone accompanied by a complex methodological explanation and a help page. American tech media TechCrunch has taken over this tool, whose interface can seem confusing to ordinary people – you navigate by typing computer command lines.

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If these tools are public, the detection process requires certain computer skills, hours of work, as well as being equipped with a computer running Linux or Mac OS. Moreover, after analysis, the journalists of TechCrunch initially found a sign of infection in their mobile, but it was an error, a “false positive” since corrected in the detection tool of Amnesty.

Prudence

In the future, it is possible that tests based on Amnesty’s methodology will be made available to the general public with a more user-friendly graphical interface. The tools of the NGO are under license open source: they can be duplicated and modified freely.

If, for two days, several online services claim to offer a reliable “Pegasus test”, it is currently strongly discouraged to use these services claiming to be able to detect spyware. They might be hiding a scam or malware. Remember that the chances of the general public having been infected with Pegasus remain low.