Everything you need to know about the Pegasus spyware infecting smartphones

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Pegasus spyware FAQ
And how to tell if your iPhone is infected.
Photo: NSO Group/Cult of Mac

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware is making headlines again after it was reported that a number of governments around the world have been using it to hack the smartphones of activists, politicians, journalists and other individuals.

A list of potential surveillance targets, which includes more than 50,000 phone numbers, was leaked and obtained by a number of news outlets over the weekend, reigniting concerns over government surveillance.

So, what exactly is Pegasus? And who might be a potential target of an attack? How can you tell if your iPhone already fell victim to the spyware? We rounded up everything you need to know about Pegasus.

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Fleeceware tricks people into paying enourmous subscription fees.
Don’t get fleeced.
Photo: Cult of Mac/Skitterphoto/Pexels CC

macOS malware shoots up 1,000% in 2020

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dead MacBook hack
Are you protecting your Mac yet?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Cybercriminals reportedly created more macOS malware in 2020 than from 2012 to 2019 combined. The days when Mac users could happily assume they weren’t in danger from hackers are long over.

But the situation remains far worse for Windows users. Researchers found 135 times as many Windows malware samples last year as ones targeting macOS.

How to tell if Silver Sparrow malware is hiding on your Mac

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How to tell if Silver Sparrow malware is hiding on your Mac
Silver Sparrow could be in your M-series or Intel Mac. Here’s how to find out.
Graphic: Cult of Mac/Red Canary

Some of the first malware targeting both M-series and Intel Macs has affected thousands of computers. At this point, the malicious code — called “Silver Sparrow” — is not dangerous, and Apple may have pulled its teeth. But users of the latest macOS computers still might want to know if their device has it. And the same goes for owners of Intel-based Macs.

Here’s how to find out if your computer has been hit.

Apple steps up fight against Silver Sparrow malware that targets M1 Macs

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Apple Silicon
Apple Silicon Macs aren't safe from malware.
Photo: Apple

The first wave of malware written specifically for Apple Silicon Macs is starting to appear. And Apple’s already playing Whac-A-Mole to try and stop it.

The malware in question, called “Silver Sparrow,” is reportedly a malicious package that can exploit a vulnerability in the macOS Installer JavaScript API as a way to execute dodgy commands. While it remains unclear how big of a threat Silver Sparrow poses, Apple nonetheless took steps to stop its spread.

Security expert IDs the first bit of malware optimized for M1 Macs

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Apple silicon will power future Mac desktops and laptops
"And next year, we're really excited about the first M1 malware that's coming."
Screenshot: Apple

Security researcher Patrick Wardle has discovered what may be the first malware optimized for Apple Silicon Macs. The malware, details of which he published this week, involves a Safari adware extension called GoSearch22.

The adware delivers unwanted ads, collects browser data, and modifies browser settings. GoSearch22 is relatively low risk. However, it can result in users being redirected to certain websites or suffering an otherwise impaired browsing experience.

Mac malware slips through Apple notarization process

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Mac malware is real. Watch out.
Even Macs can get hit with malware. Especially when Apple notarizes it!
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple reportedly slipped up and notarized some malware. This allows the ill-behaved software to be installed on Macs.

Preventing the spread of malware is exactly why Apple insists Mac apps to be notarized, so it’s not clear how this malicious software got Apple’s approval.