Hackers exploit security vulnerability to install spyware through WhatsApp

WhatsApp
File Reuters

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Internet hackers have taken advantage of a security vulnerability in the application, one of the world’s most widely deployed messaging applications, allowing hackers to install spyware on mobile phones, Whatsapp said on Tuesday.

The vulnerability, which the Financial Times first brought to the fore and fixed the latest application update, allowed hackers to hack malicious software onto phones by contacting the target application user.

1.5 billion people apply around the world.

The software was developed by an unknown Israeli-based company called the NSO Group, which is accused of helping governments from the Middle East and even Mexico wiretap activists and journalists, the Financial Times quoted a spyware dealer as saying. Security researchers said the malicious code bore similarities to other technologies developed by the company, according to the New York Times.

Discovered a spyware command that targeted Android devices, iPhone, etc. Similarly, earlier this month, Whatsapp was quick to fix the loophole in less than 10 days.

“It encourages people to get the latest version of the app, as well as constantly update their mobile operating system, to protect them from any malicious software designed to tamper with information stored on mobile devices,” a company spokesman said.

The company did not comment on a question about the number of users targeted or affected by the malicious software, and said it informed the US authorities.

The break-in is the latest in a series of issues of concern for Whatsapp’s Facebook after being criticized for allowing research firms to collect user data and its slow response to Russia’s use of the platform as a means of spreading misleading information during the US election campaign in 2016.

– Software fierce –

The company said that the latest spyware is sophisticated and can only be available “to very advanced players with great motivation to use it,” adding that it “targeted a select group of users”.

“This attack carries all the hallmarks of a private company working with a number of governments around the world,” according to initial investigations, but did not name the company.

Watasab briefed some human rights organizations on the matter, without specifying their names.

“I think one of the attackers tried to target a human rights lawyer last Sunday through that loophole, but Watsab stopped him,” said Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto in Tijara.

The NSO group was re-named in 2016 when it was accused of helping to spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates. The company’s most famous product is Pegasus, a malicious tool that is said to be able to operate a target phone’s camera and microphone and access the data stored on it.

The company said on Tuesday it would only allow its programs to be used by governments to “fight crime and terrorism.” “NSO does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and auditing process, intelligence and law enforcement agencies determine how technology can be used to support public safety operations in their area,” it said in a statement received by AFP.

“We investigate any allegations that may have grounds for misuse, and move if necessary, including by closing the system.”

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