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Sophisticated spyware attack on WhatsApp hacks mobile phones of users

WhatsApp Spyware attack

Despite encrypting every conversation and following best security practices, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp has become vulnerable to a cyber attack.

The messaging service revealed that it found a vulnerability that could allow attackers to infect the WhatsApp users with spyware, just by making them a call.

The vulnerability, dubbed CVE-2019-3568, allowed attackers to infect the device even if the users didn’t answer the call. What the attackers did is exploited a buffer overflow weakness in the app that enabled them to hack the WhatsApp and then the device on which it is running.

Security team at WhatsApp called it an advanced cyber actor which is a rare but very dangerous type of cyberattack. The spyware is different from other malware attacks which are carried out via phishing approaches. Attackers can use spyware to exploit the devices even if the users don’t receive the call.

If a device is attacked, the cybercriminals could gain access to the personal data which is stored on the handset. They could modify things or lock the mobile to demand ransom from the users.

The following versions of WhatsApp were vulnerable to the spyware attack:

  • WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134
  • WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44
  • WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51
  • WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51
  • WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348
  • WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15

WhatsApp has responded to the attack and said that it became aware of the vulnerability earlier this month. Within 10 days, the social network released a server-side fix to mitigate the attack. However, dozens of WhatsApp users were already compromised before the fix was issued.

Also read: Cybersecurity threats can cost large organizations US$10.3 million and a mid-sized organization $11K annually, on an average

Further, WhatsApp has also released an update to the mobile app on Monday which will help in avoiding such cyber attacks in the future.

In a statement after releasing the patch, WhatsApp has asked all its users to update the app to the latest version and also keep their operating system updated.

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