Facebook-owned Whatsapp confirmed that the app was hit by a “targeted” surveillance attack from a hacker on Monday. The attack was targeted to a specific number of users and was discovered earlier this month.
The attackers used a security flaw (official statement from Facebook) in the WhatsApp’s voice calling a function to ring a target’s device. Even if the call was not picked up by the user, the spyware would be installed, and, the Financial Times reported that the call would often disappear from the device’s call log.
“Once installed this spyware can turn on a phone’s camera and mic, scan emails and messages, and collect the user’s location data.”
The attack was developed by the Israeli security firm NSO Group, according to a report in the Financial Times. According to Whatsapp, its too early to know how many users were affected by the attack out of its 1.5 billion users worldwide but the company confirmed that the attack was highly targeted.
Whatsapp has fixed the issue and suggested its users update their app right away to get rid of this vulnerability. However, this update was fixed by the backend without the patch to be released to the users.
How to update your Whatsapp:
- Go to the Play Store, then tap Menu (the three horizontal lines in the top-left corner of your screen).
- From there, select ‘My apps & games’, which will show you a list of pending updates for the applications installed on your phone.
- Tap ‘Update’ next to WhatsApp Messenger and the latest version of the app will download and install onto your device.
- Alternatively, you can go to the Play Store and search for WhatsApp. Tap ‘Update’ under WhatsApp Messenger.
- Go to the App Store, then tap on ‘Updates’. Tap ‘Update’ next to WhatsApp Messenger.
- Alternatively, you can go to the App Store and search for WhatsApp. Tap ‘Update next to WhatsApp Messenger.
Windows Phone 8.1:
- Go to the Store, then tap Menu (the three little dots).
- From there, select ‘my apps’, then WhatsApp, then ‘Update’.
- Alternatively, you can go to the Store and search for WhatsApp. Then tap WhatsApp, then ‘Update’.
Windows Phone 10:
- Go to the Microsoft Store, then tap Menu (the three horizontal lines).
- From there, select ‘My Library’. Tap ‘Update’ next to WhatsApp.
- Alternatively, you can go to the Microsoft Store and search for WhatsApp. Then tap WhatsApp, then ‘Update’.
Danna Ingleton, deputy programme director for Amnesty Tech said that there was mounting evidence that the tools were being used by administrations to keep leading activists and reporters under monitoring.
“The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said on Monday in a briefing document note for journalists.