WhatsApp’s popularity is unquestionable. With over 1.6 billion monthly active users it is the most popular messaging app on the planet by quite a margin. This is great because it means most, if not all, of your friends and family are on WhatsApp, too. But there’s a problem: such a huge user base is also going to attract hackers and cyber-criminals.
We’ve covered a plethora of WhatsApp related scams here at Softonic. From fake versions of WhatsApp to dubious links being sent out across the network promising deals and freebies that are too good to be true, we’ve seen lots of different types of WhatsApp scam. Unfortunately, however, today we have to tell you that it doesn’t look like the scammers will be running out of ideas any time soon. There is another WhatsApp that you need to be aware of.
New tool exploits vulnerability in WhatsApp to allow third parties to manipulate your chats and put words in your mouth
At a recent cyber-security conference in Las Vegas, called Black Hat, cyber-security specialists from Check Point Software Technologies demonstrated a new tool that allows hackers to intercept and manipulate user chats on WhatsApp. The tool enables hackers to fool the WhatsApp quote tool to make it look like users have said things that they hadn’t.
Speaking to the BBC, Check Point researcher, Oded Vanunu said, “It’s a vulnerability that allows a malicious user to create fake news and create fraud… You can completely change what someone says… You can completely manipulate every character in the quote.”
Vanunu also indicated that the tool can change the name of the sender who the quote is attributed to. This means a hacker could completely make up a quote and then put your name, or the name of another WhatsApp user, next to it.
On its own this thought is frightening enough. Somebody could do some real damage to your reputation and personal relationships, if they were able to accredit false quotes to your name. The potential problem is magnified, however, when you think of all the problems fake news has been causing on WhatsApp.
We’ve seen as many fake news WhatsApp scandals as we have WhatsApp scams. From causing riots and lynching in India to pushing false narratives in Brazil that have seen a far-right candidate take the presidency, WhatsApp has been dealing with a fake news global epidemic for quite some time. The messaging giant has taken steps to halt the spread of false information, but this latest tool could make that job even harder.
The good news, however, is that the vulnerability the tool exploits is now common knowledge so, hopefully, WhatsApp will already be working to close it. This is all another reminder of how precarious our digital security is and just how serious things can get, if we don’t stay vigilant when we’re online.