WhatsApp hack explained – you could still be at risk

2019-05-16 12:36
WhatsApp rolled out a fix on Friday and urged its 1,5 billion users to update their app. 
(Photo: Getty Images)

WhatsApp rolled out a fix on Friday and urged its 1,5 billion users to update their app. (Photo: Getty Images)

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It’s easier than ever for crooks to access our personal information – especially on our cellphones. Afterall, it’s where most of us store our banking details, emails and additional data.

If this information ends up in the wrong hands, it could put your finances in jeopardy or even lead to identity theft.

This is why when reports of a WhatsApp hacking scandal surfaced, users reacted in a panic.

The attack targeted a select number of users and was orchestrated by an advanced cyber-actor, according to those in charge of the app, which is owned by Facebook.

BBC reports hackers managed to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices by exploiting a major vulnerability in the WhatsApp app.

It’s believed the hacking software was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, reports the Financial Times.

WhatsApp rolled out a fix on Friday and urged its 1,5 billion users to update their app.

The cyber-crooks might have been exposed but if you haven’t updated the app yet, you’re still at risk, says Paul Ducklin, senior technologist at IT security company Sophos.  

“This bug has got so much attention that there are probably loads of crooks looking to recreate or rediscover it,” he warns.

He adds it’s important to often patch – or update – the apps installed on your device.

“If you aren’t in the habit of patching, use this story as a reason to get serious about it. Don’t make yourself an easy picking for the crooks.”

Once the hackers gain access to a device it’s a free for all, Ducklin says.

“The thing with spyware in general is that once a crook has a foothold on your device, they can go after anything that’s accessible,” he explains.

“So a crook who targets your photo album might not really care about your pictures. They might be more interested in snooping around for bank account details, credit card numbers, and so on.

“But it’s the same as when someone breaks into a house. Perhaps they were after a laptop or TV, but who knows what else they could take a shine to because it seemed interesting or valuable once they were inside?”

There wasn’t much users could have done to protect themselves. But Ducklin advises you to keep the number of apps on your phone limited and often update them.

“Uninstall apps you don’t actually use, whether that’s a mainstream app like WhatsApp or a special-interest app such as a game. The more apps you have, the more bugs you might be exposing to the crooks. So reduce what cybersecurity jargon calls your ‘attack surface area’.”

EXTRA SOURCES: BBC, Financial Times

Read more on:    whatsapp  |  hack  |  scandal  |  cybersecurity  |  app
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