Are hackers are monitoring me through my phone? © Dan Bright

Are hackers monitoring me through my phone?

Published: 09th February, 2022 at 11:00
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Watch out for your phone behaving strangely.

Nearly a decade ago, an Israeli technology firm called the NSO Group, run by former members of the Israeli Intelligence Corps, created mobile phone spyware software called Pegasus. Classed as a weapon, the Israeli Ministry of Defense licenses the export of Pegasus to foreign governments. Recently it has been discovered that this spyware has been used by many countries to infect the phones of activists, journalists and political leaders.


The spyware software is extremely clever, using multiple vulnerabilities in different apps on your phone. It may be installed by clicking on a link, but most insidiously it could even infect modern iOS iPhones through a simple iMessage with no clicks needed. Once infected, it provides access to your passwords, location, text messages, call and app data, and even the microphone and camera.

Pegasus is not the only spyware out there; we know of many more used by intelligence services or criminal organisations. Some malware or spyware is so clever that even performing a factory reset, which should wipe all apps and data, does not work – upon restarting, the phone is immediately reinfected.

You might get clues that your iPhone has been infected if your battery drains quickly when not in use, the screen turns on by itself without notifications, location services reports that your camera has used your location recently for no apparent reason, or you find a strange deleted photo that you never took.

In reality, we live in a connected world. If a powerful organisation really wants to hack your devices, they probably can.

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Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.


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