Various Ways Your WhatsApp Messages Can get Hacked


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Published 2 Years Ago On Sunday, February 20, 2022

WhatsApp is a popular and easy to use messaging app. It has some security features, like the use of end-to-end encryption, which tries to keep your messages private. However, as good as these security measures are, WhatsApp still isn't immune to hacks/free from getting hacked; this can end up compromising the privacy of your messages and contacts. As knowing is half the battle, if we are simply aware of vulnerabilities, we can then take concrete steps to avoid comprising ourselves.
On that note, The following entails some of the few ways that WhatsApp can be successfully hacked.

1. Execution of Codes Remotely Through GIF Images

In October 2019, security researcher Awakened revealed a vulnerability found in WhatsApp that let hackers take control of the app using a GIF image. The hack 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 show a preview of the file. GIF files are very special to hackers because they have multiple encoded frames. This means that code can be hidden within the image.

If a hacker were to send a malicious GIF to a user, they could compromise the user's entire chat history. The hackers would be able to see who the user had been messaging and what they had been saying. They could also see users' files, photos, and videos sent through WhatsApp.
The vulnerability affected so ,many versions of WhatsApp up to 2.19.230 on Android 8.1 and 9. Fortunately, Awakened disclosed the vulnerability responsibly and Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, patched the issue. To keep yourself safe from this problem, you should always keep WhatsApp updated.

2. The Pegasus Voice Call Attack

Another WhatsApp vulnerability discovered in early 2019 was the Pegasus voice call hack.
This scary attack allowed hackers to access a device simply by placing a WhatsApp voice call to their target. Even if the target didn't answer the call, the attack could still be effective. And the target may not even be aware that malware has been installed on their device.

This worked through a method known as buffer overflow. This is where an attack deliberately puts in heaps of code into a small buffer so that it "overflows" and writes code into a location it shouldn't be able to access. When the hacker can run code in a location that should be secure, they can take malicious steps.

This attack installed an older and well-known piece of spyware called Pegasus. This allowed hackers to collect data on phone calls, messages, photos, and video. It even let them activate devices' cameras and microphones to take recordings.

If you are running WhatsApp version 2.19.134 or earlier on Android or version 2.19.51 or earlier on iOS, then you need to update your app immediately.

3. Socially Engineered Attacks

Another way that WhatsApp is vulnerable is through socially engineered attacks, which exploit human psychology to steal information or spread misinformation.

A security firm called Check Point Research revealed one example of this attack, which they named FakesApp. This allowed people to misuse the quote feature in group chat and to alter the text of another person's reply. Essentially, hackers could plant fake statements that appear to be from other legitimate users.

The researchers could do this by decrypting WhatsApp communications. This allowed them to see data sent between the mobile and the web versions of WhatsApp.

And from here, they could change values in group chats. Then they could impersonate other people, sending messages which appeared to be from them. They could also change the text of replies.

This could be used in worrying ways to spread scams or fake news. Even though the vulnerability was disclosed in 2018, it had still not been patched by the time the researchers spoke at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in 2019, according to ZNet.

4. Media File Jacking

Media File Jacking affects both WhatsApp and Telegram. This attack takes advantage of the way apps receive media files like photos or videos and write those files to a device's external storage.

The attack starts by installing malware hidden inside an apparently harmless app. This can then monitor incoming files for Telegram or WhatsApp. When a new file comes in, the malware may swap out the real file for a fake one.

Symantec, which is the company that discovered the issue, suggests it could be used to scam people or to spread fake news.
There is a quick fix for this issue, though. Using WhatsApp, you should look in Settings and go to Chat Settings. Then find the Save to Gallery option and make sure it is set to Off. This will protect you from this vulnerability. However, a true fix for the issue will require app developers to entirely change the way that apps handle media files in the future.

5. WhatsApp Web

WhatsApp Web is a neat tool for someone who spends most of their day on a PC. It provides the ease of accessibility to WhatsApp users, as they won't have to pick up their phone again and again for messaging. The big screen and keyboard provides an overall better user experience too.

Here's the caveat, though. As handy as the web version is, it can be easily used to hack into your WhatsApp chats. This danger arises when you're using the WhatsApp Web on someone else's computer.

So if the owner of the computer has selected the keep me signed in box during login, then your WhatsApp account will stay signed-in even after you close the browser.

The computer owner can then access your information without much difficulty.

You can avoid this by making sure that you log out from 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.

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