WhatsApp Confirms Customer Fear of Spyware Attack

Technology > Security

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp confirmed on Monday that it was vulnerable and a target by spyware though the hacker's name was hidden / Photo by: Max Pixel

 

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp confirmed on Monday that it was vulnerable and a target by spyware, although it refused to name the perpetrator.

WhatsApp was telling its users to upgrade the app to its latest version and maintain an up-to-date mobile operating system for protection "against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” a spokesperson told CNBC.

The spokesman, through a statement, added that the company is incessantly working with their industry partners to provide users with the latest improvements in security.

On Monday, the Financial Times reported that another company—NSO Group, an Israel-based cybersecurity firm—was able to successfully create and install malware that could've been used for intercepting conversations made through WhatsApp.

CNBC reported that the messaging app already stated the attacks seemed to have been executed by a private company that worked with governments to supply spyware. WhatsApp had also indicated that a "select number" of users were targeted.

NSO Group is notorious for its reported, though unconfirmed, role in helping the FBI to access the phone of the San Bernardino mass shooter following Apple's refusal to an FBI request to do so.

The cybersecurity firm's technology is "licensed to authorized government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror," it said in a statement.

"The company does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions."

NSO Group noted that it doesn't employ the hacking tools itself, adding that intelligence and law enforcement agencies exclusively operate the said tools.

CNBC added that the firm will investigate "credible allegations of misuse" and take action, including system shut down, if necessary. The NSO Group did not clarify if the WhatsApp issue presents a "misuse" of its tool.

The threat of spyware could raise serious problems for the reputation of WhatsApp, which has been founded on the privacy and the security of the end-to-end encryption in its prominent texting and voice-calling application.