On Tuesday, Wednesday 14, WhatsApp issued an alert on a fatal security breach on its system that allowed hacked to install spyware on your phone by simply calling you via WhatsApp Call.
Hackers can install the malicious code to your phone whether you accept the call or not. So there is little you can do to protect yourself from them since anybody on WhatsApp with your phone number can call you. You only have to decide whether to accept, reject, or let the call go unanswered. Either way, once the call comes through, the hacker will still be able to implant the malicious code to your phone.
Once the malicious code is implanted on your device, it trawls through your phone calls, SMS, and any other relevant data it can find on the device. It can also access your phone’s camera and microphone without your consent, among other malicious activities.
How to know if you’re affected
If the thought of someone calling you, and leaving malicious codes on your device scares you. Well, you should be scared; very scared! It is said all phones, whether running the general WhatsApp app or the WhatsApp Business app, are all vulnerable to this attack.
That means all iPhones, Android phones, Windows Phones, and Tizen devices. That is according to a statement issued by Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp. Though there is no official report on the total number of users affected.
WhatsApp technical team are said to be still investigating the vulnerability and say they believe only a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”
Some of the victims the technical team can identify include a UK-based lawyer and another researcher working for Amnesty International. They think this attack is mainly interested in human rights activists.
What to be in the lookout for
The technical team believes the hackers need to call you through WhatsApp to implant the malicious code. That means you should be on the lookout for any unknown numbers calling you on WhatsApp. It doesn’t matter whether you receive the call, reject it, or let it ring until it goes unanswered.
As mentioned before, individuals working for human rights groups seem to be the target. So if that is your line of work, you probably need to be more on the lookout for such calls than the general public.
Update to the latest WhatsApp version
The company has rolled out an update with a fix that hopefully patches this zero-day vulnerability. Thus is it highly recommended you update your WhatsApp app from your official app store.