How WhatsApp Messages Can Be Hacked – Guide

WhatsApp is a popular messaging app that has become an essential part of our lives as a communication channel. But a hacked WhatsApp chat is probably everyone’s worst nightmare. You can avoid it by knowing the methods that can be used to hack WhatsApp. So, all you have to do is take precautionary measures about it.

How WhatsApp messages can be hacked

Remote code execution via GIF

In October 2019, security researcher Awakened revealed a vulnerability in WhatsApp that allowed hackers to take control of the app using a GIF image. The hack works by taking advantage of the way WhatsApp processes images when the user opens the Gallery view to upload a media file. When this happens, the app parses the GIF to show a preview of the file. GIF files are special because they have multiple encoded frames. This means that the code can be hidden inside the image. If a hacker sends a malicious GIF to a user, it could compromise the user’s entire chat history. Hackers would be able to see who the user was messaging and what they were saying. They can also view users’ files, photos and videos sent by WhatsApp. Vulnerability affected versions of WhatsApp up to 2.19.230 on Android 8.1 and 9. Fortunately, Awakened responsibly disclosed the vulnerability and Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, fixed the issue. To keep safe from this issue, you should always keep WhatsApp updated.

The Pegasus Voice Call Attack

Another WhatsApp vulnerability discovered in early 2019 was the Pegasus voice call hack. This creepy attack allowed hackers to access a device by simply making a WhatsApp voice call to its target. Even if the target did not heed the call, the attack could still be effective. And the target may not even be aware that the malware has been installed on their device. This worked through a method known as buffer overflow. This is where an attack deliberately puts lots of code into a small buffer so that it “stuffs” and writes code in a place it shouldn’t be able to access. When the hacker can run code in a place that should be safe, he can take malicious action. This attack installed an older, more well-known spyware called Pegasus. This allowed hackers to collect data about phone calls, messages, photos and videos. It even allows them to activate the devices’ cameras and microphones to make recordings. This vulnerability is applicable on Android, iOS, Windows 10 Mobile, and Tizen devices. More recently, it was used by the Israeli company NSO Group, accused of spying on Amnesty International employees and other human rights activists. After news of the hack got out, WhatsApp was updated to protect you from this attack. If you are running WhatsApp version 2.19.134 or earlier on Android or version 2.19.51 or earlier on iOS, you will need to update your app immediately.

Social engineering attacks

Another way WhatsApp is vulnerable is through social engineering attacks, which exploit human psychology to steal information or spread misinformation. A security company called Check Point Research revealed an example of this attack, which they called FakesApp. This allowed people to misuse the quote feature in group chat and to change the text of someone else’s reply. Essentially, hackers can plant false claims that appear to be from other legitimate users. Researchers could do this by decrypting WhatsApp communications. This allowed them to see the data sent between the mobile and the web versions of WhatsApp. And from here, they could change the values ​​in the group chats. Then they could impersonate other people, sending messages that appeared to be theirs. They can also change the text of the answers. This can worryingly be used to spread scams or fake news. While the vulnerability was disclosed in 2018, it had not yet been patched when researchers spoke at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in 2019, according to ZNet.

Media file hijacking

Capturing media files affects WhatsApp and Telegram. This attack takes advantage of the way apps receive media files such as photos or videos and write these files to a device’s external storage. The attack starts by installing malware hidden inside a seemingly harmless application. This can monitor incoming files for Telegram or WhatsApp. When a new file arrives, the malware can swap the real file for a fake one. Symantec, the company that discovered the problem, suggests it could be used to trick people or spread false news. There is a quick fix to this problem, however. Using WhatsApp, you have to look in Settings and go to Chat Settings. Then find the Save to Gallery option and make sure it is set to Off. This will protect you from this vulnerability. However, a true fix for the problem will require app developers to completely change the way apps handle media files in the future.

Facebook can spy on WhatsApp conversations

In an official blog post, WhatsApp stated that because of its end-to-end encryption, it is impossible for Facebook to read WhatsApp content. However, according to developer Gregorio Zanon, this is not strictly true. The fact that WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption does not mean that all messages are private. On an operating system like iOS 8 and above, apps can access files in a “shared container”. Facebook and WhatsApp apps use the same container shared across devices. And while chats are encrypted when sent, they are not necessarily encrypted on the source device. This means that the Facebook app can copy information from WhatsApp. To be clear, there is no evidence that Facebook used shared containers to view private WhatsApp messages. But the potential exists. Even with end-to-end encryption, your messages may not be private from Facebook’s full capture network.

fake whatsapp clones

Using fake website clones to install malware is an old hacking strategy still implemented by cybercriminals around the world. These clone websites are known as malicious websites. The hacking tactic has now also been adopted to break into Android systems. To hack your WhatsApp account, an attacker will first try to install a WhatsApp clone, which can be very similar to the original app. Take the case of the WhatsApp Pink scam, for example. A clone of the original WhatsApp, it claims to change WhatsApp’s default green background to pink. Here’s how it works. An unsuspecting user receives a link to download the WhatsApp Pink app to change the app’s background color. And even if it actually changes your app’s background color to pink, as soon as you install the app it will start collecting data not only from your WhatsApp but also from everything else stored on your phone.

WhatsApp Web

WhatsApp Web is a nifty tool for anyone who spends most of their day on a PC. It offers the ease of accessibility to WhatsApp users as they will not have to choose up their phone again and again for messages. The large screen and keyboard also provide a better overall user experience. Here’s the caveat, though. As useful as the web version is, it can easily be used to hack your WhatsApp chats. This danger arises when you are using WhatsApp Web on someone else’s computer. So, if the computer owner has checked the keep me signed in during login box, your WhatsApp account will remain signed in even after you close your browser. The computer owner can access your information without much difficulty. You can avoid this by making sure you log out of WhatsApp Web before logging out. But as they say, prevention is better than cure. The best approach is to avoid using anything other than your personal computer for the web version of WhatsApp.

Exporting your chats

While some of the methods we discussed above are indeed elaborate, and some just capitalize on blank spots in the human psyche, this one simply requires physical access to your smartphone. And no, the hacker doesn’t need a lot of time with your phone, any; just a few seconds are enough. This gives them enough time to export their messages to a location they can access later. It could be anything: an email account, cloud storage, or even a messaging app. Once a hacker has access to your phone, all they have to do is move to a specific chat, click the Export Chat option, and select the location they want to move their message history to. The solution? The surefire way to protect yourself is to keep your phone away from unknown hands at all times. Also, you have the option to enable fingerprint lock for your WhatsApp. Go to Accounts > Privacy > Fingerprint Lock. There, enable the Unlock with fingerprint option and set the lock enable to Immediately. Now every time your WhatsApp is chosen up after inactivity, your fingerprints will be required to launch the app.

Final note

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