WhatsApp group chats can easily be infiltrated, find researchers

14 January, 2018, 00:12 | Author: Jeannette Greene
  • WhatsApp Group Chat Bug

The innovative November update allowed users to delete messages within seven minutes of sending them. So theoretically, intercepting and reading a message would not be possible by a third party.

That seems to be enough for them at the moment, especially because a fix for the flaw could end up breaking the convenient "group invite link" feature.

Computer researchers have discovered a set of flaws in WhatsApp that could allow uninvited individulals into private group chats.

How does the exploit work?

"The described weaknesses enable attacker A, who controls the WhatsApp server or can break the transport layer security, to take full control over a group", the paper states.

"Anyone who controls the app's servers could insert new people into private group chats without needing admin permission", the report said, citing cryptographers.

But this new flaw means it would now technically be possible to infiltrate group messages, bypassing encryption. But that possibility of detection isn't an adequate solution to WhatsApp's underlying problem, argues John Hopkins' Green. They also point out that the lack of any authentication mechanism to deal with the invitation for new members also worsens the security.

It is not the first serious vulnerability that researchers have discovered on WhatsApp's messaging platform, with security firm Checkpoint uncovering a loophole previous year that allowed hackers to completely take over users' accounts and access conversations, contact lists, photos, videos and other shared media. It would appear as if the new member had the permission of the admin to join.

Once the eavesdropper is in the group, he/she would have access to all future messages sent on the group as WhatsApp would generate secret keys for each member in the group and share it with the newcomer. Clients of a group retrieve membership from the server, and clients encrypt all messages they send e2e to all group members. This would include messages asking about the new member and even those that say to be wary of the newcomer. But how simple can it be to get access to the WhatsApp servers?

According to the researchers, once an attacker with control of the WhatsApp server had access to the conversation, he or she could also use the server to selectively block any messages in the group.

There's no doubt that encryption is a critical tool for protecting our data.

The researchers advised in their paper that sums up their findings, that users who rely on complete privacy should stick to Signal (an encrypted communications app) or private messaging. In reality, an attack of this nature is bound to be uncovered sooner or later. However, in case he does not notice, the group is compromised. This is claimed to indicate that your name has been mentioned four times in that specific WhatsApp group. This is where researchers are paid to report hack able flaws in the company's software. This feature is now under testing and there is no word regarding when it will be rolled out to the public as a part of the stable version of WhatsApp. If you notice anyone who should not be there, immediately notify the group admin.

As per a WABetaInfo report, the new option will be available in the Group Info section as "Dismiss as admin" and will allow the admin to demote his fellow without removing him from the group.


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