Pegasus spyware detected on French phones, Zeus app detects Pegasus

Sicherheit (Pexels, allgemeine Nutzung)[German]Today another short article on the Pegasus surveillance software from the Israeli NSO Group. After the discovery of this spy software on smartphones of politicians and activists in the summer of 2021, the Trojan was recently found on phones of French politicians as well. The days I have also received information that Softorina has released the Zeus app for Windows. This allows iPhones to be scanned for the Pegasus spyware.


Review: Discovery of the Pegasus spyware

It caused headlines on news, when a leaked list, containing 50,000 phone numbers of at least ten NSO Group customers from 2016 to 2021, ending up in the hands of Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories. The latter is a Paris-based media non-profit organization. Research by an international consortium of journalists suggested in July 2021 that hundreds of journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and politicians were spied on by the Pegasus spyware through their smartphones.

The spy software, called Pegasus, is offered by Israel's NSO Group Technologies.This is an Israeli technology company, based in Herzliya near Tel Aviv. The company, which has around 500 employees, has been mainly developing software and surveillance technology since its inception in 20210. The Pegasus spyware allows remote monitoring of smartphones (Android, iOS, etc.) and is installed within seconds. Officially, the company gives the software only to states to fight against terrorism and crime. But the customer list is probably more extensive. At the time, I had reported in more detail about the facts in the blog post NSO Group's Pegasus spyware on many smartphones.

French also in focus

As early as August 2021, the French national security agency Anssi confirmed that the Pegasus spyware of the Israeli NSO group had been found on journalists' smartphones (see my postNSO spyware Pegasus found on smartphones of French journalists). Then, last week, it became known that traces of the Pegasus surveillance software (also known as state Trojans), were found on smartphones of French politicians (specifically, five ministers or ministeresses of the French government). It remains unclear whether data was leaked. The Guardian has published an articles on the matter. 

The Zeus app recognizes Pegasus

Pegasus is unlikely to be used for mass surveillance, as the cost per monitored person is simply too high. Nevertheless, some users might be interested in the question of whether their own devices might have been infected at some point. In the German article Analyse-Tool gegen die Pegasus-Spyware aus der Schweiz, I had briefly reported that developers of the Swiss company DigiDNA integrated Amnesty International's MVT tool (used to detect Pegasus) into their own tool iMazing. This makes it easier to scan iPhones for infestation by the Pegasus spyware.

Now I've received a tip about another tool from its developer. Softorino has been developing management software for iOS for years and has seized the opportunity to develop a free app called Zeus. This app were named after the Greek god Zeus, who defeated Pegasus with his thunderbolt. The Zeus app is a standalone, secure application (currently only for Windows) that allows users to check their iPhones for signs of NSO's Pegasus spyware. A quick guide to using the software on Windows can be found here, and the software can be downloaded here.


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NSO Group's Pegasus spyware on many smartphones
NSO spyware Pegasus found on smartphones of French journalists

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