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Check How WhatsApp Messages Can Be Hacked
WhatsApp is a popular messaging application that has become an essential part of our lives as a communication channel. But a hacked WhatsApp chat is probably everyone’s worst nightmare. You can avoid this by knowing the methods that can be used to hack WhatsApp. So all you have to do is take precautionary measures in this regard.
How WhatsApp messages can be hacked
Remote code execution via GIF
In October 2019, security researcher Awakened revealed a vulnerability in WhatsApp that allowed hackers to take control of the app using a GIF image. The trick works by taking advantage of the way WhatsApp processes images when the user opens the Gallery view to send a media file. When this happens, the app parses the GIF to display a preview of the file. GIF files are special because they have multiple encoded frames. This means that the code can be hidden within the image.
If a hacker were to send a malicious GIF to a user, it could compromise the user’s entire chat history. Hackers could see who the user had been messaging and what she had been saying. They could also view users’ files, photos and videos sent through WhatsApp. The vulnerability affected WhatsApp versions up to 2.19.230 on Android 8.1 and 9. Fortunately, Awakened responsibly disclosed the vulnerability and Facebook, owner of WhatsApp, fixed the issue. To stay safe from this problem, you should always keep WhatsApp up to date.
The Pegasus Voice Call Attack
Another WhatsApp vulnerability discovered in early 2019 was the Pegasus voice call hack. This terrifying attack allowed hackers to access a device simply by making a WhatsApp voice call to their target. Even if the target didn’t respond to the call, the attack could still be effective. And the target may not even know that malware has been installed on their device.
This worked through a method known as buffer overflow. This is where an attack deliberately puts lots of code into a small buffer so that it “overflows” and writes the code to a location it shouldn’t be able to access. When the hacker can execute code in a location that should be safe, he can take malicious action. This attack installed an older and more well-known piece of spyware called Pegasus. This allowed hackers to collect data about phone calls, messages, photos, and videos. It even allowed them to activate the cameras and microphones of the devices to take recordings.
This vulnerability is applicable on Android, iOS, Windows 10 Mobile, and Tizen devices. More recently, it was used by the Israeli firm NSO Group, which has been accused of spying on Amnesty International staff and other human rights activists. After news of the hack broke, WhatsApp was updated to protect it from this attack. If you are running WhatsApp version 2.19.134 or earlier on Android or WhatsApp version 2.19.51 or earlier on iOS, you should update your app immediately.
Social engineering attacks
Another way WhatsApp is vulnerable is through social engineering attacks, which exploit human psychology to steal information or spread misinformation. A security company called Check Point Research revealed an example of this attack, which they called FakesApp. This allowed people to misuse the quote feature in group chat and alter someone else’s reply text. Essentially, hackers could plant false statements that appear to be from other legitimate users. The researchers could do this by decrypting WhatsApp communications. This allowed them to see the data sent between the mobile and web versions of WhatsApp.
And from here, they could change the values in the group chats. They could then impersonate other people, sending messages that appeared to be from them. They could also change the text of the answers. This could be worryingly used to spread scams or fake news. Although the vulnerability was disclosed in 2018, it had not yet been patched when the researchers spoke at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in 2019, according to ZNet.
Media file jacking
Media hijacking affects both WhatsApp and Telegram. This attack takes advantage of the way applications receive media files such as photos or videos and write those files to a device’s external storage.
The attack begins with the installation of hidden malware inside a seemingly harmless application. This can then monitor incoming files for Telegram or WhatsApp. When a new file arrives, the malware can change the real file to a fake one. Symantec, the company that discovered the problem, suggests that it could be used to scam people or spread fake news.
However, there is a quick fix for this problem. Using WhatsApp, you need to look in Settings and go to Chat Settings. Then look for the Save to gallery option and make sure it is turned off. This will protect you from this vulnerability. However, a true fix for the problem will require app developers to completely change the way apps handle media files in the future.
Facebook could spy on WhatsApp chats
In an official blog post, WhatsApp claimed that due to its end-to-end encryption, it is impossible for Facebook to read WhatsApp content. However, according to developer Gregorio Zanon, this is not strictly true. Just because WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption doesn’t mean all messages are private. In an operating system like iOS 8 and above, apps can access files in a “shared container”.
The Facebook and WhatsApp apps use the same shared container across devices. And while chats are encrypted when they’re sent, they’re not necessarily encrypted on the originating device. This means that the Facebook app could potentially copy data from WhatsApp. To be clear, there is no evidence that Facebook has used shared containers to view private WhatsApp messages. But the potential is there. Even with end-to-end encryption, your messages may not be private from Facebook’s full capture network.
Fake WhatsApp clones
Using fake website clones to install malware is an old hacking strategy still implemented by cybercriminals around the world. These cloned sites are known as malicious websites. The hacking tactic has now been adopted to break into Android systems as well. To hack into your WhatsApp account, an attacker will first try to install a clone of WhatsApp, which might look surprisingly similar to the original app. Take the case of the Pink WhatsApp scam, for example. A clone of the original WhatsApp, it claims to change WhatsApp’s standard green background to pink. Is that how it works.
An unsuspecting user is given a link to download the WhatsApp Pink app to change the background color of their app. And while it does indeed change the background color of your app to pink, as soon as you install it, it will start collecting data from not only your WhatsApp but also everything else stored on your phone.
WhatsApp Web is a good tool for someone who spends most of the day on a PC. It provides the ease of accessibility to WhatsApp users as they will not have to pick up their phone again and again to send messages. The large screen and keyboard also provide a better user experience overall. Here’s the caveat, though. As useful as the web version is, it can be easily used to hack your WhatsApp chats. This danger arises when you are using WhatsApp Web on someone else’s computer.
So, if the owner of the computer selected the Keep me signed in checkbox during login, your WhatsApp account will remain signed in even after you close the browser. The owner of the computer can then access your information without much difficulty. You can prevent this by making sure to sign out of WhatsApp Web before you leave. But as they say, prevention is better than cure. The best approach is to avoid using anything other than your personal computer for the web version of WhatsApp altogether.
Exporting your chats
While some of the methods we’ve discussed above are really elaborate, and some simply take advantage of blank spaces in the human psyche, this one simply requires physical access to your smartphone. And no, the hacker doesn’t need much time with your phone either; just a few seconds is enough. This gives them enough time to export their messages to a location they can access later. It could be anything: an email account, cloud storage, or even a messaging app.
Once a hacker has access to your phone, all they have to do is move to a specific chat, click the Export Chat option, and select the location you would like to move your message history to. The solution? The best way to protect yourself is to keep your phone away from unknown hands at all times. Also, you have the option to enable fingerprint lock for your WhatsApp. Go to Accounts > Privacy > Fingerprint lock. There, enable the Unlock with Fingerprint option and set the lock activation to Immediately. Now whenever your WhatsApp recovers after inactivity, your fingerprint will be required to launch the app.
Final words: How WhatsApp Messages Can Be Hacked
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