Earlier in 2019, reports suggested that journalists and activists had been notified that their phones had been compromised by spyware by Israeli-based NSO group’s Pegasus spyware. The highly sophisticated surveillance software is once again at the center of a major controversy after international reports revealed how it was used to spy on journalists, ministers and businessmen. Data, including calls and texts, can reportedly be retrieved from a victim’s phone using the tool.
Researchers at Amnesty International have created a device that lets you see whether or not your phone has been infected with spyware. The Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) is a tool that helps users determine whether their phone has been hacked by Pegasus spyware or not. The app is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. However, Amnesty said that it was easier to detect on iPhones because more forensic traces were found on them.
Is your phone infected with Pegasus Spyware?
Installing the toolkit requires users to first install a Python package available on the MVT (Mobile Verification Toolkit) website. On the website, you will also find instructions for installing. MVT requires Python 3.6 or higher to run. Mac users must also have Xcode and Homebrew installed. To view forensic traces on an Android device, you’ll also need to install certain dependencies.
In order to access the Pegasus proofs, users need to back up their data so that MVT can decrypt all files stored locally on their phones. In the case of a jailbroken iPhone, a full file system dump may also be used for analysis. MVT uses indicators such as domain names and binaries to locate traces of NSO in Pegasus backups. You can also use MVT to decrypt an encrypted iPhone backup without having to make a whole new copy.
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The source code for the tool is also open source and available on GitHub as well as detailed documentation. Pegasus has been described as the most sophisticated hacking software available today to hack phones. Time and again, the NSO Group has claimed that it is not responsible if the Pegasus software is misused. The group claims to only sell the tool to vetted governments and not to individuals or other entities.