WhatsApp Security Flaw Lets Someone Covertly Add Members To Group Chats

WhatsApp Security Flaw Lets Someone Covertly Add Members To Group Chats

The WhatsApp and Facebook apps are displayed on a iPhone.

While WhatsApp boasts great end-to-end encryption of messages which is great for those who crave privacy - but a source of chagrin for many in the law enforcement community - it seems the messaging service is susceptible to attacks on user privacy.

Researchers announced they had discovered flaws in WhatsApp's security at the Real World Crypto security conference in Switzerland, Wired reports.

However, security experts from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany said hackers or spies with access to WhatsApp servers could, in theory at least, invite members into other people's chats without them knowing, allowing them to eavesdrop the conversation.

Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos in a Twitter thread said that it was impossible for anyone to infiltrate WhatsApp's private groups.

WhatsApp drives most of our communications today.

"We've looked at this issue carefully", the spokesperson said.

It also points out that WhatsApp users are able to view the membership of a group by tapping "group info", and can verify the security code of individual members for added security. But how easy can it be to gain access to the WhatsApp servers? "Existing members are notified when new people are added to a WhatsApp group".

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Wired explained that the "confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them".

While messages shared before the attacker enters the group can not be read, it does give the person access to all messages which are shared from this point onward.

In January a year ago, the Guardian newspaper reported that WhatsApp was vulnerable to interception, sparking concern over the app that marketed itself as a privacy leader. "The content of messages sent in WhatsApp groups remains protected by end-to-end encryption".

The system relies on unique security keys "that are traded and verified between users to guarantee communications are secure and can not be intercepted by a middleman", the report said.

According to Maxie Marlinspike, who developed the Signal protocol, it's not possible to suppress the alerts sent when someone joins the group, contrary to the researchers' claim.

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. "WhatsApp is built so group messages can not be sent to hidden users and provides multiple ways for users to confirm who receives a message prior to it being sent", Stamos said.

The WhatsApp mouthpiece noted that preventing the Ruhr University researchers' attack would likely break a popular WhatsApp feature known as a "group invite link" that allows anyone to join a group simply by clicking on a URL. If they add themselves to the group: 1.

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