Samvel Martirosyan: Rank-and-file employees of Armenian state institutions are notified by Apple about Pegasus attack

December 16, 2022  18:04

Last night dozens of citizens were notified by Apple that their phones were attacked by Pegasus spyware, information security and media expert Samvel Martirosyan told Tech, adding that the last time such a case was registered in November this year.

"Politicians and public figures have been alerted again, but this time there are also rank-and-file officials and ordinary employees of government agencies among them, which is very alarming. Most of these people received the messages for the first time, but there is a case where a person received the notification both last year and in November this year, but such cases are few," he said.

Samvel Martirosyan noted that using this spyware service is quite expensive, it is an Israeli program and it is only sold to the states. "It allows you to access the files of this phone, turn on the camera, use chat, find out the location of the person and so on. Pegasus is different in that you click on something by mistake to be infected by it," the specialist explained.

According to Samvel Martirosyan, it is difficult to figure out which country ordered the infection, because the given state gives the order and the producer gets infected. According to him, the letter is sent by Apple when it detects signs of infection, but the actual infection could have happened much earlier, for example, a year ago.

"This program is used in many countries around the world, Armenia is not the only target. In our case, the biggest accumulation of infections was in 2021 before the special election. But that's only a side of what we know. You can't know which of your data they used, in the best case you can know when you were infected, but it's not an easy job either, you need special experts," he stressed.

To avoid such infections, Samvel Martirosyan recommends regularly updating your phone software. You can also use the Apple Lockdown mode, which puts the phone in a secure state and avoids such infections.

Pegasus is a spyware program developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. It can be secretly installed on cell phones (and other devices) running iOS and Android operating systems. Pegasus was discovered in August 2016 during a failed attempt to install it on a human rights activist's iPhone. An investigation was then launched, which resulted in its disclosure. Pegasus was and is widely used to monitor anti-government activists and politicians, as well as journalists and human rights activists.

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