If You Are Reading This; You Need To Update Your WhatsApp ASAP

WhatsApp Security Breach

A security flaw in WhatsApp has allowed sophisticated attackers to install spyware on phones.  The company said on Tuesday, in the latest trouble for its parent Facebook.

The vulnerability was first reported by the Financial Times and fixed in the latest WhatsApp update. The update allowed hackers to insert malicious software on phones by calling the target user using the app.

The FT cited a spyware dealer as saying a shadowy Israel-based firm developed the tool called the NSO Group.  Which is being accused of helping governments from the Middle East to Mexico snoop on activists and journalists.

Security researchers said the code bore similarities to other tech developed by the firm, according to The New York Times.

Whatsapp Security Breach

The latest exploit impacts Android devices and Apple’s iPhone, among others they discovered – this month. WhatsApp scrambled to fix it, by rolling out an update in less than 10 days.

A spokesperson for WhatsApp has advised users to update their apps again.

The firm did not comment on the number of users affected but had reported the matter to US authorities.

The breach is the latest in a series of issues troubling WhatsApp’s parent Facebook. A Facebook policy which has faced intense criticism for allowing its users’ data harvested by research companies.

– Highly invasive software –

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company that works with several governments around the world,” according to initial investigations, it added but did not name the firm.

WhatsApp has briefed human rights organizations on the matter but did not identify them.

The Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, said in a tweet it believed an attacker tried to target a human rights lawyer as recently as Sunday using this flaw but was blocked by WhatsApp.

The NSO Group came to prominence in 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates. Its best-known product is Pegasus, a highly invasive tool that can reportedly switch on a target’s phone camera and microphone and access data on it.

The firm said Tuesday that it only licenses its software to governments for “fighting crime and terror”.

The NSO Group “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”, it said in a statement to AFP.

“We Investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system.” It also added.

 

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