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SPYWARES

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, government has asked Apple to join its investigation into allegations that the iPhones of some opposition leaders and journalists could have been compromised by “state-sponsored” hackers.

WHAT IS STATE SPONSORED ATTACK?

  • State-sponsored cyberattacks typically involve hackers from a specific country targeting government websites or critical infrastructure like power grids.
  • So when several opposition leaders and journalists received iPhone alerts, warning them of ‘state-sponsored’privacy attacks, they were rattled.
  • While the Indian government has urged Apple to help with the investigation, it has also asked why it sent the threat notifications to people in over 150 countries.
  • Apple clarified that the alerts did not specify any state-sponsored attacker.

USE OF SPYWARES BY COUNTRIES:

  • In 2021, a global investigation revealed that a military-grade spyware called Pegasus, developed by the Israeli NSO Group, was used to hack into the phones of activists and journalists in India and abroad.
  • A year later, a technical committee set up by the Supreme Court concluded that the phones it examined did not have Pegasus installed in them.
  • However, it added that the Indian authorities “did not cooperate” with its investigation.
  • Many countries, including China, Russia, the UK, and the US, have been accused of spying on each other, and their citizens too, with the help of phone apps, spyware, and trojans.

WHAT ARE SPYWARES?

  • Spyware is any software that installs itself on your computer and starts covertly monitoring your online behavior without your knowledge or permission.
  • Spyware is a kind of malware that secretly gathers information about a person or organization and relays this data to other parties.
  • It is installed without user consent by methods such as a drive-by download, a trojan included with a legitimate program or a deceptive pop-up window.
  • Spyware uses your internet connection to relay personal information such as your name, address, browsing habits, preferences, interests or downloads.

SIGNS OF DEVICE BEING COMPROMISED BY SPYWARE:

  • Hackers use public Wi-Fi hotspots, and keyloggers to snoop on what you type or say.
  • Hackers can even make a Bluetooth connection to your phone if it’s within 30 feet.
  • A compromised phone gives a hacker access to a user’s messages, photos, call logs, internet history and everything synced to online storage sites, including data such as credit card accounts and other personal information.
  • A battery that drains rapidly is one sign.
  • Other signs include the phone getting a bit sluggish or hot; apps quitting suddenly or your phone rebooting; and strange data, text, or other strange charges propping up in your phone bill.

HOW TO PREVENT FROM SPYWARE?

  • Use of multi-factor authentication is best way to stay safe from spywares.
  • Regularly updating and patch your OS and antimalware software.

  • Zero trust is an effective model for protecting infrastructure and information from spyware in a modern organization.
  • It addresses the need to secure gig workers and hybrid cloud systems while mitigating the risks around malware, spyware, and ransomware.
  • Internet content filtering restricts access to web materials that may be considered objectionable, improper, or even dangerous.
  • It is advisable to encrypt their phones (in your ‘security’ settings), lock SIM cards, use virtual private networks whenever possible, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use, and steer clear of third-party app stores.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Spyware is one of the oldest tactics that hackers use, but it takes on a new dimension in the era of data proliferation.
  • Thus, it is crucial to take preventive measures and know how to root out spyware from your systems in the event of an attack.

SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

SOURCE: INDIAN EXPRESS, LIVEMINT

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