How to protect yourself from Predator and other spywares

I wrote about the insidious operations of the spyware known as Predator for SiliconANGLE today. This nasty piece of work infects your phone and can capture everything going on around you, and what you type, and where you go, among other things. If this sounds familiar, it is. Remember the Pegasus spyware that was sold by the Israeli NSO Group?

A consortium of international researchers and reporters have published a coordinated expose about the spyware, just like what happened a few years ago with Pegasus. What I want to talk about in conjunction with this effort are things that you can do to protect yourself. While you may not be a target, if you are sufficiently paranoid, you might want to implement at least one of the suggestions from the main Amnesty International report to protect your privacy.

I have annotated their recommendations with my own experience.

  • Update your web browser and mobile operating system software as soon as any security updates are made available for your devices. Many of the latest updates have been triggered by these spyware revelations.
  • Enable Lockdown Mode (Settings/Privacy and Security) if you use an Apple device. This can make a successful compromise of your device more challenging for an attacker. I have implemented this and so far it doesn’t seem to mess things up with normal phone operations. It does produce a regular series of warning messages saying that it is still on.
  • Be wary of clicking links from anyone, but especially strangers or people you haven’t heard from recently. Do not rely only on the preview of the URL displayed on messaging apps or social media platforms as that might be deceptive.
  • Pay attention to any changes in your devices’ functioning (i.e., shortened battery life or overheated phones). However, this by itself is not a strong indicator of suspicious activity.
  • Disable the ‘Direct Messages from Anyone’ option on Twitter. Better yet, don’t reply to anyone there.
  • On your personal Facebook accounts, manage privacy settings to limit your profile’s visibility to existing friends.
  • Speaking of Facebook, I would also carefully evaluate any new friend or Messenger requests before accepting. Also, review your post comments for any entreaties from unknown contacts and delete them quickly. I almost always get several of these each time I post. And I have deleted the Messenger app from my phone, and just wait until I am back at my desktop and use the web version. The app collects all sorts of information about your contacts.

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