Technology 2 min read

Hackers use WhatsApp to Infect Phones With Spyware

Anton / Pexels

Anton / Pexels

Just recently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp discovered a vulnerability in both its iPhone and Android messaging apps which enabled hackers to infect smartphones with spyware.

According to reports, the security vulnerability is associated with a recent hacking incident targeting the lawyer of the group suing the surveillance software company who allegedly made the spyware.

The vulnerability was already fixed last Friday. WhatsApp said that it had distributed a server-side fix and an app update to users yesterday. A WhatsApp representative said in a statement:

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems. We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”

The Israeli Spyware

The Financial Times identified NSO Group as the actor behind the Israeli spyware. The smartphone malware was spread via missed calls through WhatsApp’s voice calling function.

WhatsApp claimed that only a handful of people have reportedly been affected by the malware. The company also told media outlets that its security team was the first to identify the vulnerability which it later shared with Internet security watchdog Citizen Lab and the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton still called the hacking effort a “very scary vulnerability.” The NSO Group has been known as a cyber arms dealer in the past. In fact, one of its software, the Pegasus, is capable of collecting confidential data from any targeted device.

In a statement, the NSO Group denied any involvement with the Israeli spyware.

“Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization.”

Today, the Tel Aviv court is scheduled to hear the petition of Amnesty International which calls for the revocation of NSO Group’s license to sell its products internationally.

Read More: New Malicious Malware Found On Google Play Store Apps

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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