Have you updated WhatsApp? If not, here’s why you should

14th May 2019

Last week’s blog post on SchemeServe highlighted how we could all be targeted in a collective attack because of the technology that makes us so connected to each other. In a sinister echo to that very notion, users of freeware WhatsApp Messenger were this week warned to update their app as there was a danger that the app could be compromised.

It was relayed that hackers are able to install spyware on people’s phones that will enable them to trawl through all of the contents including contacts, messages, calls and other data – it could even turn on the victim’s camera.

This would’ve all happened unbeknownst to the owner of the phone’s knowledge as the vulnerability identified allows the hackers to gain access by giving the hapless victim a simple phone call through the app. It apparently doesn’t matter if the call was picked up or not. Sneakily, hackers could let the ruse carry on by clearing all missed call data.

WhatsApp, which was founded in 2009 and bought by Facebook back in 2014 for a reported $19.3 billion, claims to have got on top of the problem. However, there were still fears and reports about the fact that that hackers had found more vulnerabilities over the weekend that’s just gone by.

Access to an app like WhatsApp could provide hackers with lots of information as there are over one and a half billion users making use of the service. It’s effectively the most popular messaging application and boasts users in the United Kingdom, many parts of Europe, Brazil and India.

So, who is behind this malware attack? According to the Financial Times, the software was created by Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. It’s not clear how many people were affected but according to reports, some victims have already been identified, including a UK based human rights lawyer.

All versions of WhatsApp across all operating systems could be targeted. It’s not only the man on the street that makes use of the app. WhatsApp also created a business version which is free to download and available on Android and iPhone. It’s designed for small business owners to help them respond to messages. If you’ve downloaded WhatsApp business you’ve more than likely created a business profile which asks users to fill in the company’s address, email and website and exchanged messages that may contain sensitive information.

Protecting your personal and business information is vital so it’s important that you act now if you haven’t done so already. WhatsApp is advising users to update their messaging app by installing the latest version of it. Check for updates on the App Store if you have an iPhone or check out Google play if you have an Android phone.

Overall, it’s probably a good idea to keep on top of any updates that you need to install on your phone, and any other devices, particularly if you use freeware software like WhatsApp. Vulnerabilities are identified by hackers all the time and this is not going to be the last time that a programme like WhatsApp is targeted. We all need to be vigilant.

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