WhatsApp confirms ‘Targeted’ Spyware Attack
WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with about 1.5 Billion users worldwide confirmed a targeted spyware attack on its platform.
- Threat: A security flaw in WhatsApp acted as a vulnerability, which allowed hackers to insert malicious software on user’s phones by calling the target using the app.
- This latest exploit impacts Android devices and Apple’s iPhones, among others. It was discovered by company in early May and WhatsApp quickly attempted to fix it and even rolled out an update within 10 days.
- Concern: WhatsApp is a “secure” communications app as the messages shared on platform are end-to-end encrypted, which means they should only be displayed in a readable form on sender or recipient’s device. However, the surveillance software used in spyware would have let an attacker read messages on potential target’s device.
- Impact: Such attacks are designed to compromise users data stored on mobile device and thus puts information stored by billions of people at risk.
- Potential Attacker: As per a spyware dealer, the hacking tool was developed by ‘NSO Group’, a shadowy Israel-based firm, which has earlier been accused of helping governments from Middle East to Mexico snoop on activists and journalists. Several security researchers also found similarities between the malicious codes with other tech which have been developed by the firm.
- Restraint: to protect against potential targeted exploits, WhatsApp encouraged its users to upgrade to latest version of its app, and to also keep their mobile operating system (OS) updated as an added precaution.
About NSO Group
- The group gained prominence in 2016 when several researchers accused it of helping to spy on an activist in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
- In past it has been referred as a “cyber-arms dealer”.
- ‘Pegasus’, a highly invasive tool is NSO’s flagship software. It is capable of switching on a target’s phone camera and microphone, gather location data and can even access and collect data from it.
- But, the firm denied any participation in potential spyware.