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CAUTION: WhatsApp being used to send links that can steal personal information

by Milicent Atieno
CAUTION: WhatsApp being used to send links that can steal personal information

Hackers are increasingly targeting smartphones than desktop computers, as more people get comfortable doing more tasks on their phone. Tasks they traditionally did on desktop computers, on which they were security conscious and had put up security software to keep hackers at bay.

However, that same level of safety consciousness does not seem to exist when people are using their phones. Hackers are increasingly becoming aware that targeting smartphones is comparatively easier than targeting desktop computers. WhatsApp, the popular messaging service is proving to be an easy way for a hacker to get access to your private information.

With its over a billion users worldwide, hackers are sending links and files over the messaging app. They do so in a manner that dupes the receiver into thinking it is a message from a government official or a credible organization. This form of duping is said to have started in India, where people were getting messages with files send to them from numbers that mimicked official government bodies and organizations.

India has recorded the highest numbers of such cyber-attacks, with little to no other reported incidences outside that country. That does not mean, however, that WhatsApp users should let their guard down if anything you should be more careful as hackers plan to expand their target area outside India.

Those who were victims in India were being sent files that appeared to be Microsoft Excel files. When opened, the document is said to install other software on your phone that secretly gathers information from your device, including your online banking credentials and sends them to the hacker.

The two files identified by experts to be conducting this stealth espionage operation are ‘NDA-ranked-8th-toughest-college-in-the-world-to-get-into.xls’ and ‘NIA-selection-order-.xls

From the names of the files, the typical Indian would think they were sent by the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) or National Defense Academy (NDA). As a rule of thumb, and this applies to any links and files sent to you by unknown/unfamiliar senders, do not open files or click on links sent to you on WhatsApp or email from unknown senders.

Doing so may initiate the download of malware, virus, spyware, adware, rootkit onto your smartphone. Then someone else will also have access to your phone, remotely and without your knowledge. The software can install and run in the background with you never knowing about it. For that reason, you are advised to always have a software for checking on your devices’ security integrity.

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