Fri. Jul 19th, 2019

Security flaw exposed WhatsApp users to spyware attack

whatsapp group control settings privacyA vulnerability in the WhatsApp’s security system allowed hackers to access users’ phones by installing spyware software.

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A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement issued to CNN that the group of hackers could reportedly implant a malicious spyware code on a victim’s phone by means of a WhatsApp call.

Developers discovered and repaired the vulnerability. In addition, a new update of the app made available to combat the attack. Facebook, who owns Whatsapp, suggests that the app be updated.

The initial attack was aimed at UK-based lawyers

As reported by The Guardian, the Pegasus software was used to spy on UK-based lawyer in an attempt to “find out details of his human rights work”. Nick Hopkins from The Guardian explains:

“The lawyer is involved in a civil case brought against the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group whose sophisticated Pegasus malware has reportedly been used against Mexican journalists, and a prominent Saudi dissident living in Canada.”

In addition, the lawyer contacted Citizen Lab, who could confirm that there was an attempt to target his phone using Pegasus. Governments like Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates use the Pegasus software.

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Photo: Envato Elements/Diego_Cervo

How does the attack affect ordinary users?

The vulnerability affected users of WhatsApp on all platforms, meaning you need to update your app immediately if you are still using an older version of WhatsApp.

This attack also opened the door for groups of hackers to exploit the vulnerability and install spyware on users’ phones. While most spyware requires some action on the user’s part, this new vulnerability did not.

The hackers only had to place a call to a phone with WhatsApp installed. In essence, the phone’s user didn’t even have to answer or reject the call.

How to update your WhatsApp

On Android:

  • Open the Play Store and tap on the three lines in the top left corner
  • Go to ‘My Apps & Games’
  • Select ‘WhatsApp’ and tap ‘Update.’

On iPhone:

  • Open the App Store and select updates
  • Select ‘WhatsApp’ and click ‘Update.’

So, next time the App Store or Play Store reminds you of an update, don’t ignore it. Apps are updated regularly to repair bugs or flaws. In essence, keeping an app updated will provide an extra layer of security against these attacks.

Also read – WhatsApp update: New feature could block you from taking screenshots

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