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How to remove Pegasus malware from your Android device

Also Known As: Pegasus spyware
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What kind of malware is Pegasus?

Pegasus is the name of a malicious program within the spyware classification. It targets Android operating systems and can perform various commands and extract a broad range of information.

Pegasus is a highly sophisticated program developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company called NSO Group. This spyware is licensed to various governmental agencies worldwide, which has resulted in it being used for cyber-espionage against targets of interest, such as politicians, activists, journalists, and so on.

Pegasus malware detections on VirusTotal

Pegasus malware overview

Unlike many Android-targeting malicious programs, Pegasus does not need extensive user interaction to infect devices (e.g., giving permissions, enabling accessibility services, etc.). This malware is distributed through malicious links that cause infections upon a single click.

As previously mentioned, Pegasus can execute various commands on compromised devices, and it can receive them using several techniques – such as via SMS messages. Spyware is designed to spy on victims and extract data; Pegasus is not an exception and has multiple functionalities geared towards this purpose.

Pegasus has keylogging abilities, i.e., it can record keyboard input – thus obtaining any and all information typed by users on their devices. It can also take screenshots and photographs (by using the device's front/back cameras). Pegasus is capable of recording audio via the device's microphone as well.

Additionally, should the victim's GPS provider be active – the malware can use it to track their location. Other features include obtaining a list of running processes and rebooting the system.

Pegasus targets communications. To elaborate, it can acquire SMS-related data, including outgoing and incoming text messages. The program can extract call logs from phones, which entail information like incoming and outgoing calls, contacts, call duration, etc. It likewise aims to collect data (predominately messages/ chat logs) from various social networking and messaging applications, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Kakao, WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber.

Furthermore, the malware can extract emails and email attachments from the native email on Android and Gmail apps. From certain browsers, Pegasus can acquire browsing-related information (e.g., bookmarks, browsing history, etc.) and saved usernames/passwords. This spyware can also access events created on the default Calendar.

It must be mentioned that this program can self-update, and it uses several methods for self-removal. The former is important since malware developers often improve upon their creations; hence, future iterations of Pegasus could have other/additional features.

To summarize, infections like Pegasus can lead to severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft. Since this spyware is used in cyber-espionage, the result can be much more devastating.

If you suspect that your device is infected with Pegasus spyware (or other malware) – we strongly recommend using an anti-virus to remove it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Pegasus spyware
Threat Type Android malware, spyware, malicious application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (ELF:Agent-BJI [Expl]), DrWeb (Android.Chrysaor.1.origin), ESET-NOD32 (Multiple Detections), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Pegasus.a), McAfee (Artemis!7C3AD8FEC334), Full List (VirusTotal)
Symptoms The device is running slow, system settings are modified without user's permission, questionable applications appear, data and battery usage is increased significantly.
Distribution methods Infected mail attachments/links, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, deceptive applications, scam websites.
Damage Stolen personal information (private messages, logins/passwords, etc.), decreased device performance, battery is drained quickly, decreased Internet speed, huge data losses, monetary losses, stolen identity (malicious apps might abuse communication apps).
Malware Removal (Android) To eliminate malware infections our security researchers recommend scanning your Android device with legitimate anti-malware software. We recommend Avast, Bitdefender, ESET or Malwarebytes.

Similar malware examples

We have analyzed dozens of Android-specific malicious programs; GodFatherFake "System Update" RATSchoolyard Bully, and IcSpy are just a few examples of malware with data-stealing and spyware capabilities.

Malicious software can have a wide variety of functionalities and uses. However, regardless of how it operates – its presence on a system endangers device integrity and user safety. Therefore, all threats must be eliminated immediately upon detection.

How did Pegasus infiltrate my device?

Pegasus has been observed being proliferated via spam mail containing a malicious link that triggers the spyware's download/installation process when clicked. However, malicious links can be promoted using different techniques, and it is not unlikely for other malware distribution methods to be in use for Pegasus.

Generally, malicious software is spread by employing phishing and social engineering techniques. It is often disguised as or bundled with ordinary apps/media.

The most widely used malware proliferation methods include: malicious attachments and links in spam mail (e.g., emails, SMSes, PMs/DMs, etc.), online scams, drive-by (stealthy/deceptive) downloads, dubious download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware websites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), illegal software activation tools ("cracks") and pirated programs, malvertising, and fake updates.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We highly recommend being careful with incoming emails, DMs/PMs, SMSes, and other messages. The attachments and links found in suspicious/irrelevant mail must not be opened, as they can be malicious and cause system infections.

Another recommendation is to be cautious when browsing since fraudulent and dangerous online content usually appears ordinary and harmless.

We strongly advise researching software (e.g., reading terms and expert/user reviews, checking necessary permissions, verifying developer legitimacy, etc.) and downloading only from official/trustworthy sources. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated using functions/tools provided by legitimate developers, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updaters can contain malware.

It is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security software must be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats.

Quick menu:

Delete browsing history from the Chrome web browser:

Deleting web browsing history from Chrome in Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "History" in the opened dropdown menu.

Deleting web browsing history from Chrome in Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Clear browsing data", select "ADVANCED" tab, choose the time range and data types you want to delete and tap "Clear data".

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Disable browser notifications in the Chrome web browser:

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "Settings" in the opened dropdown menu.

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Site settings" option and tap it. Scroll down until you see "Notifications" option and tap it.

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 3)

Find the websites that deliver browser notifications, tap on them and click "Clear & reset". This will remove permissions granted for these websites to deliver notifications. However, once you visit the same site again, it may ask for a permission again. You can choose whether to give these permissions or not (if you choose to decline the website will go to "Blocked" section and will no longer ask you for the permission).

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Reset the Chrome web browser:

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you find "Chrome" application, select it and tap "Storage" option.

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 3)

Tap "MANAGE STORAGE", then "CLEAR ALL DATA" and confirm the action by taping "OK". Note that resetting the browser will eliminate all data stored within. This means that all saved logins/passwords, browsing history, non-default settings and other data will be deleted. You will also have to re-login into all websites as well.

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Delete browsing history from the Firefox web browser:

Delete browsing history from the Firefox in the Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "History" in the opened dropdown menu.

Delete browsing history from the Firefox in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Clear private data" and tap it. Select data types you want to remove and tap "CLEAR DATA".

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Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser:

Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser in the Android operating system (step 1)

Visit the website that is delivering browser notifications, tap the icon displayed on the left of URL bar (the icon will not necessarily be a "Lock") and select "Edit Site Settings".

Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser in the Android operating system (step 2)

In the opened pop-up opt-in the "Notifications" option and tap "CLEAR".

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Reset the Firefox web browser:

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you find "Firefox" application, select it and tap "Storage" option.

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 3)

Tap "CLEAR DATA" and confirm the action by taping "DELETE". Note that resetting the browser will eliminate all data stored within. This means that all saved logins/passwords, browsing history, non-default settings and other data will be deleted. You will also have to re-login into all websites as well.

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Uninstall potentially unwanted and/or malicious applications:

Removing unwanted/malicious applications from the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Removing unwanted/malicious applications from the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see a potentially unwanted and/or malicious application, select it and tap "Uninstall". If, for some reason, you are unable to remove the selected app (e.g., you are prompted with an error message), you should try using the "Safe Mode".

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Boot the Android device in "Safe Mode":

The "Safe Mode" in Android operating system temporarily disables all third-party applications from running. Using this mode is a good way to diagnose and solve various issues (e.g., remove malicious applications that prevent users you from doing so when the device is running "normally").

Booting Android device in Safe Mode

Push the "Power" button and hold it until you see the "Power off" screen. Tap the "Power off" icon and hold it. After a few seconds the "Safe Mode" option will appear and you'll be able run it by restarting the device.

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Check the battery usage of various applications:

Checking the battery usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Device maintenance" and tap it.

Checking the battery usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Battery" and check the usage of each application. Legitimate/genuine applications are designed to use as low energy as possible in order to provide the best user experience and to save power. Therefore, high battery usage may indicate that the application is malicious.

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Check the data usage of various applications:

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Connections" and tap it.

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Data usage" and select this option. As with battery, legitimate/genuine applications are designed to minimize data usage as much as possible. This means that huge data usage may indicate presence of malicious application. Note that some malicious applications might be designed to operate when the device is connected to wireless network only. For this reason, you should check both Mobile and Wi-Fi data usage.

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 3)

If you find an application that uses a lot of data even though you never use it, then we strongly advise you to uninstall it as soon as possible.

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Install the latest software updates:

Keeping the software up-to-date is a good practice when it comes to device safety. The device manufacturers are continually releasing various security patches and Android updates in order to fix errors and bugs that can be abused by cyber criminals. An outdated system is way more vulnerable, which is why you should always be sure that your device's software is up-to-date.

Installing software updates in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Software update" and tap it.

Installing software updates in the Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Download updates manually" and check if there are any updates available. If so, install them immediately. We also recommend to enable the "Download updates automatically" option - it will enable the system to notify you once an update is released and/or install it automatically.

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Reset the system to its default state:

Performing a "Factory Reset" is a good way to remove all unwanted applications, restore system's settings to default and clean the device in general. However, you must keep in mind that all data within the device will be deleted, including photos, video/audio files, phone numbers (stored within the device, not the SIM card), SMS messages, and so forth. In other words, the device will be restored to its primal state.

You can also restore the basic system settings and/or simply network settings as well.

Resetting the Android operating system to its default (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "About phone" and tap it.

Resetting the Android operating system to its default (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Reset" and tap it. Now choose the action you want to perform:
"Reset settings" - restore all system settings to default;
"Reset network settings" - restore all network-related settings to default;
"Factory data reset" - reset the entire system and completely delete all stored data;

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Disable applications that have administrator privileges:

If a malicious application gets administrator-level privileges it can seriously damage the system. To keep the device as safe as possible you should always check what apps have such privileges and disable the ones that shouldn't.

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Lock screen and security" and tap it.

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Other security settings", tap it and then tap "Device admin apps".

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 3)

Identify applications that should not have administrator privileges, tap them and then tap "DEACTIVATE".

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

My computer is infected with Pegasus malware, should I format my storage device to get rid of it?

Most malicious programs can be removed without resorting to formatting.

What are the biggest issues that Pegasus malware can cause?

The threats associated with an infection depend on the program's functionalities and the attackers' goals. Pegasus is a spyware – a type of malware designed to spy on victims and gather sensitive information. And it has been observed being used in cyber-espionage. Therefore, it can cause other devastating issues in addition to severe privacy problems, financial losses, and identity theft.

What is the purpose of Pegasus malware?

Pegasus was designed and is being used in cyber-espionage. However, politically/geopolitically motivated attacks are not the sole use of malware. This software is predominately employed to generate revenue for the cyber criminals using it. Other reasons behind malware infections include the attackers' amusement, personal grudges, and so on.

How did Pegasus malware infiltrate my computer?

Pegasus has been actively spread via spam mail containing malicious links, which trigger the infection once clicked. However, it is possible that this spyware is distributed using other methods as well.

Malware is primarily proliferated through spam mail (e.g., emails, SMSes, DMs/PMs, etc.), online scams, malvertising, drive-by downloads, untrustworthy download sources (e.g., freeware and third-party sites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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