WhatsApp exploit lets hackers spread fake messages

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WhatsApp users are being warned of a newly-discovered flaw that allows hackers to infiltrate private messages and group chats The flaw could allow scammers to impersonate you and even spread fake messages from “you” on the chat app.

The exploit, discovered by Check Point Research’s cyber-security team, is made possible by vulnerabilities between WhatsApp for mobile and WhatsApp for the web (which users have to sync to send messages on their desktop).

According to CheckPoint, cyber-criminals can then use the following shady tactics to manipulate your messages:

  1. Use the ‘quote’ feature in a group conversation to change the identity of the sender, even if that person is not a member of the group.
  2. Alter the text of someone else’s reply, essentially putting words in their mouth.
  3. Send a private message to another group participant that is disguised as a public message for all, so when the targeted individual responds, it’s visible to everyone in the conversation

The convoluted attack method essentially requires a hacker inserting himself or herself between the app’s encrypted traffic.

The Facebook-owned company is coming under increasing scrutiny as a means of spreading misinformation, due to its popularity and convenience for forwarding messages to groups.

Check Point says it notified WhatsApp of the issues. In response, the company “acknowledged” the flaws, explaining that they’re part of the platform’s “design framework” but said it’s open to further discussion.

WhatsApp said to Rapid Mobile,

“We carefully reviewed this issue and it’s the equivalent of altering an e-mail to make it look like something a person never wrote.”

“This claim has nothing to do with the security of end-to-end encryption, which ensures only the sender and recipient can read messages sent on WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp said it had recently placed a limit on forwarding content, added a label to forwarded messages, and made a series of changes to group chats in order to tackle the challenge of misinformation.

You can read a breakdown of the technical details here.

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