Technology

WhatsApp Security Flaw Lets Hackers Enter Any Group Unnoticed

WhatsApp Security Flaw Lets Hackers Enter Any Group Unnoticed”

A research paper released by Paul Rösler, Christian Mainka, and Jörg Schwenk at Ruhr-Universität in Bochum has pointed out a flaw in WhatsApp's group chat security which, theoretically, could allow anyone to add themselves to any group conversation and gain access to messages being transmitted to and fro by the members. The report claims that it is possible that anyone can read group chats without admin permission.

According to WABetaInfo, a fan site that tests new WhatsApp features early, the new option, present in the Group Info section as "Dismiss as admin", allows an administrator to dismiss another one without removing him or her from the group.

WhatsApp

He said that there are multiple ways to verify group chat members, adding that users are notified of anyone new joining, including those without permission. Then, the phone of every participant in the group shares secret keys with that member, giving them access to future messages.

With over 1.2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is available in more than 50 different languages around the world and in 10 Indian languages. As Wired puts it this type of attack is probably limited to "sophisticated hackers who could compromise those servers, WhatsApp staffers, or governments who legally coerce WhatsApp to give them access". If the admin is keeping an eye on things, then he/she would know that a foreign party has entered the group and warn members about it. According to the German researchers, the power of any WhatsApp group lies in WhatsApp servers and not the group admin. Thus, servers can not detect if the admin added new members or someone unknown joined the private conversation.

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"Alex Stamos, the Chief Security Officer of Facebook, in response to the report said on Twitter, "[sic] Read the Wired article today about WhatsApp - scary headline! These messages use regular encryption and thus can be cracked and spoofed if someone takes control of a WhatsApp server.

Following the presentation of the researchers at the forum, a WhatsApp spokesperson explained that the privacy and security of users is a top concern of theirs.

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Managing a WhatsApp group is going to be easier now. We built WhatsApp so group messages can not be sent to a hidden user. "I think it would be better if the server didn't have metadata visibility into group membership, but that's a largely unsolved problem, and it's unrelated to confidentiality of group messages", he added.

This is a big problem, because WhatsApp prides itself on end-to-end encryption for its messages.

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