WhatsApp Discovers Major Security Loophole
Here's what you need to know about WhatsApp's major security flaw.
- By Sydny Shepard
- May 16, 2019
The team at WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging platform which has surpassed 1.5 billion users around the world, says a major security loophole was exploited by an Israeli-based group that has a history of working with governments to steal data and spy on citizens.
An article by TechCrunch explained the vulnerability as a, "bug in the audio call feature of the app to allow the caller to enable the installation of spyware on the device being called, whether the call was answered or not."
There's no word yet on how many users were targeted by the attack, but WhatsApp says they believe it is a relatively small group. A fix for the problem was rolled out within 10 days of its discovery. The messaging app is urging all users to update to the latest version of the app to eliminate any further concern.
Craig Young, computer security researcher for Tripwire's VERT (Vulnerability and Exposure Research Team), said that an attack like this should have been somewhat expected.
"A compromised smart phone is a veritable treasure trove for spies looking to infiltrate a target," Young said. "Consider that WhatsApp surpassed 1.5 billion installs over a year ago, it should come as no surprise to anyone that sophisticated adversaries like NSO group are investing resources to develop exploits for it."
Attacks like these have played out in similar messaging services like Apple's iMessage and Google Hangouts, according to Young. He offered up a few tips for organizations hoping to avoid an attack like WhatsApp suffered.
“Organizations concerned about such targeted attacks should be taking extra precautions to limit what data including emails, messages, and account credentials are stored on devices," Young said. "In some cases, it makes sense to have multiple devices for multiple purposes and to restrict the ability to bring phones to sensitive meetings or locations.”
Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.