Life

WhatsApp urges you to update the app following a cyber-attack, but what’s actually happened?

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
Published
WhatsApp hack

WhatsApp are advising users to update their app after finding and fixing major security flaws. 

Can you imagine life without WhatsApp? We once tried it for a week, and found it pretty tough going. 

A whopping 84% of online UK adults aged 25-34 year olds use the app to send texts and voice notes, in lieu of actual phone conversations. It’s convenient, fast and – thanks to those double blue ticks – easy to monitor who’s giving you the cold shoulder, just because they don’t immediately reply. 

But Tuesday’s (14 May) news about a cyber attack on the app, is enough to make anyone reconsider how they use it. 

WhatsApp have confirmed that hackers were recently able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices by using the messaging app. They also stated that a fix was rolled out last Friday, but are still advising its 1.5 billion users to update the app as an extra precaution.

You may also like

Why you can no longer ignore that WhatsApp group chat

The Financial Times has reported that the attack was developed by Israeli security firm NSO Group. It involved attackers using WhatsApp’s voice calling function to ring a target’s device. Even if the call went unanswered, the surveillance software would be installed and, according to the FT report, would often disappear from the call list.

WhatsApp – which is owned by Facebook – told the BBC that the attack was detected by its security team. They then shared the information with human rights groups, security vendors and the US Department of Justice earlier this month.

“The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a briefing document note. They also said that it was too early to know how many users had been targeted.

Amnesty International, which said it had been targeted by tools created by the NSO Group in the past, said this attack was one human rights groups had long feared was possible.

But NSO Group responded to report, saying: “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, including this individual.”

Just for peace of mind, it might be a good idea to make that quick update. 

Image: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Hollie Richardson

Recommended by Hollie Richardson

  • People

    Facebook Acts On Violence Against Women Photos

    Facebook Acts On Violence Against Women Photos

    Posted by
    Stylist Team
    Published
  • People

    Anti-cyberbullying Melania Trump defends husband’s cyberbullying

    The First Lady claims she wants to stop online trolls focusing on people’s “looks or intelligence”

    Posted by
    Moya Crockett
    Published
  • Life

    “Why are women so prone to cyberchondria?”

    Lucy Mangan on why we must resist the urge to google our symptoms

    Posted by
    Lucy Mangan
    Published
  • Life

    How to protect your personal data

    10 expert ways to keep your information safe

    Posted by
    Stylist Team
    Published

Other people read

More from Life

More from Hollie Richardson