Pegasus: why it’s harder to know if an Android smartphone has been contaminated

In the Pegasus case, there was a lot of talk about iPhone security issues. However, Android phones are not spared from this point of view either. It is just more complicated to find traces of spyware on the Google system.

The Pegasus spyware affair is a serious blow to the reputation of Apple and Google. The two companies that control the mobile market are at the heart of the controversy, since it is important security flaws discovered within iOS and Android that have allowed the tapping of public figures around the world.

Android complicates the investigation

The two tech giants, who have been trying for years to convince the general public that their mobile operating systems are secure and protected from threats, would have been well done without. The security of iPhones has been particularly criticized, because Apple has made privacy and the protection of personal data one of the main arguments of its mobile platform. But if we talk less about Android, that does not mean that Google’s system is more secure.

As Amnesty International explains, “ thousands of Android phones have also been targeted By the attack. Google’s platform just makes the survey work harder. The NGO explains that “ unlike iPhones, [Android] does not keep the logs necessary to detect an infection with the Pegasus software. In short, Rather than keeping traces of spyware, Android gets rid of it, making phone auscultation almost useless.

Android phones, just like the iPhone, have been infected by Pegasus // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

A way of operating contrary to those of the iPhone, which Google justifies by explaining that the conservation of logs ” would also be useful to malicious hackers. »Keeping track of the infection could effectively give other malicious actors information about security holes to exploit. ” We constantly balance the risk / benefit balance », Explains a security specialist at Google.

The iPhone remains “the safest and most secure smartphone”

For its part, Apple spoke on July 19, 2021 to condemn “ unequivocally cyberattacks targeting journalists, human rights activists, and all those working for a better world. “Despite the cold shower caused by the recent revelations, the company ensures that the iPhone remains” the smartphone the safest and most secure on the market “. ” The attacks described are highly sophisticated, cost millions to develop, often have a limited lifespan and are used to target very specific people ”, temper the mark.

No system has therefore been spared by Pegasus. A situation which hardly surprises Amnesty International: “He there is a fundamental imbalance of power when hundreds of people – even thousands as contractors or freelancers – are employed to spend their days and nights looking for software flaws ”explains the NGO to the newspaper Le Monde. Despite significant resources allocated to security – Google and Apple pay handsomely for discoveries of vulnerabilities – it will never be possible to prevent a particularly motivated hacker from infecting a phone, regardless of its OS. A lesson that is always useful to remember.

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