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Amnesty International Researchers Develop Pegasus Spyware Detection Tool

By Sagnik Dasgupta - 
20th Jul 2021
MVT Toolkit For Pegasus Spyware

Israeli-based NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware is something which is posing a serious threat to the world’s privacy right now. Every individual’s privacy is at stake because of this one particular spyware program. It is the most sophisticated of its kind and can hack into any smartphone, be it Android or iOS.

The Pegasus spyware has been in the news these past couple of days for all the wrong reasons. The spyware is allegedly being used by governments like the Indian government to tap into the phones of select individuals. These individuals include journalists, politicians and activists. Moreover, multiple targets of the Pegasus spyware from Israel-based NSO Group have surfaced online in the past couple of days.

Also read: Pegasus Spyware is Back And it Could Target Your WhatsApp: Here’s How to Stay Safe

The good news and ray of hope during such a heated situation is the fact that Amnesty International researchers have found a way to combat the spyware. The researchers have developed a tool which allows users to see if their smartphones are targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) For Pegasus Spyware

MVT Toolkit For Smartphones

The tool goes by the name of Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT). Moreover, it works with both iOS and Android devices. However, researchers also revealed that it is easier to find traces of Pegasus spyware on iPhones than on Android devices. This is because of the already existing forensic traces on Apple hardware.

The researchers stated in their research that, “In Amnesty International’s experience there are significantly more forensic traces accessible to investigators on Apple iOS devices than on stock Android devices, therefore our methodology is focused on the former.”

Also read: Pegasus Spyware – Everything You Need To Know

MVT: How does it work?

The MVT tool firstly requires users to generate a backup of their data. Now, this allows the MVT tool to decrypt locally stored files on the users smartphone to look for Pegasus spyware indicators. When it comes to a jailbreak iPhone, a complete filesystem dump comes in handy for the analysis.

According to a report by TechCrunch, the tool may come across a possible compromise in the device which may be a false positive. Moreover, this basically requires it to be removed from the available IOCs. However, users can read the organization’s forensic methodology report to look out for known indicators of the Pegasus spyware attack in their device’s backup.

What Else?

Additionally, Paris-based non-profit journalism agency, Forbidden Stories, has collaborated with Amnesty International to share vital details. The collaboration resulted in the revelation of over a whopping 50,000 phone numbers with the news outlet consortium, Pegasus Project. Of these 50,000, over a 1000 individuals from 50 different countries have been allegedly targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

Also read: WhatsApp is Testing end-to-end Encrypted Cloud Backups on Android

Furthermore, the list of targets includes names of journalists from organizations like Reuters, The Associated Press, CNN, The Wire, The Wall Street Journal and more. Moreover, political figures like Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress and political strategists like Prashant Kishore are also allegedly targeted by the Pegasus spyware.


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