Popular messaging platform WhatsApp has become a talking point for quite some time now. It comes with several security features, like the use of end-to-end encryption to keep messages private. Despite having such features, hackers try various ways and means to compromise the privacy of your messages and contacts.
Check out the eight ways that WhatsApp can be hacked:
1. Remote Code Execution via GIF
Security researcher Awakened had earlier revealed a vulnerability in WhatsApp that basically allows hackers to take control of the app with the help of a GIF image. It functions in a way that the hackers take advantage of the way WhatsApp processes images when the user opens the Gallery view to send a media file.
After that, the app parses the GIF to show a preview of the file. GIF files have multiple encoded frames which means that there are several codes that are hidden within the image.
If a hacker plans to send a malicious GIF to a user, they could hack the entire chat history of the user and they can also get to know who all are sending messages to the user along with the files, photos, and videos sent through WhatsApp.The vulnerability affected versions of WhatsApp up to 2.19.230 on Android 8.1 and 9.
2. The Pegasus Voice Call Attack
The Pegasus Voice Call attack was discovered in early 2019. By this attack, hackers used to get access to a device by simply doing a WhatsApp voice call and even if the user doesn’t pick up the call, the attack would be successful. The user is also unaware of the fact that the malware has been installed on their device.
This attack installed an older and well-known piece of spyware called Pegasus which basically allows hackers to collect data on phone calls, messages, photos, and video. It even lets them activate devices’ cameras and microphones to take recordings.
This kind of attack 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.
3. Socially Engineered Attacks
WhatsApp is vulnerable through socially engineered attacks as it exploits human psychology to steal information or spread misinformation.
Security firm CheckPoint Research revealed one such attack called FakesApp which allowed people to misuse the quote feature in the group chat and to alter the text of another person’s reply. Taking advantage of that, hackers could plant fake statements that appear to be from other legitimate users.
This was possible by decrypting WhatsApp communications and it allowed them to see data sent between the mobile version and the web version of WhatsApp.
After that they could change values in group chats and further impersonate other people, sending messages which appeared to be from them. The text replies also could be changed.
4. Media File Jacking
Media File Jacking harshly affects both WhatsApp and Telegram. This attack takes advantage of the way that 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 app and then monitoring incoming files for Telegram or WhatsApp.
5. Facebook Could Spy on WhatsApp Chats
In a blog post, WhatsApp implied that because it uses end-to-end encryption, it is impossible for Facebook to read WhatsApp content:
“When you and the people you message are using the latest version of WhatsApp, your messages are encrypted by default, which means you’re the only people who can read them. Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else.”
However, a developer called Gregorio Zanon disagreed with WhatsApp and said that not every message is private and on an operating system like iOS 8 and above, apps can access files in a “shared container.”
Both the Facebook and WhatsApp apps perform the same shared container on devices. While chats are encrypted when they are sent, they are not necessarily encrypted on the originating device. This means the Facebook app could potentially copy information from the WhatsApp app.
6. Paid Third-Party Apps
Third party legal apps have increased in the market and they are being used to hack the secure systems and it could be done by big companies to work hand-in-hand with oppressive regimes to target activists and journalists; or by cybercriminals intent on getting your personal information.
Apps like Spyzie and mSPY can easily hack into your WhatsApp account by stealing your private data. A user needs to just purchase the app, install it, and activate it on the target phone.
7. Fake WhatsApp Clones
Fake websites clones can be used for installing malware and these clone sites are known as malicious websites.
This has also been adopted for breaking into Android systems. To hack into your WhatsApp account, an attacker will first try to install a clone of WhatsApp, which might look strikingly similar to the original app. The classic case is the WhatsApp Pink scam.
8. WhatsApp Web
WhatsApp Web can also be hampered by hacking into the computer that WhatsApp has been logged in.