The UK lawyer whose phone was targeted by spyware that exploits a WhatsApp vulnerability said it appeared to be a desperate attempt by someone to covertly find out the details of his human rights work. The lawyer, who asked not to be named, is involved in a civil case brought against the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group whose sophisticated Pegasus malware has reportedly been used against Mexican journalistsand a prominent Saudi dissident living in Canada. The lawyer, speaking to the Guardian, said he did not know who was behind the attempt to spy on him.

Someone has to be quite desperate to target a lawyer, and to use the technology that is the very subject of the lawsuit. The company does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions.

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. WhatsApp is used by 1. Samuel Gibbs.

whatsapp virus attack

Citizen Lab told me on Sunday night that this was an attempt to target me. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has encouraged its 1. WhatsApp said the vulnerability was discovered this month, and that the company quickly addressed the problem within its own infrastructure.

An update to the app was published on Monday, and the company was encouraging users to upgrade out of an abundance of caution. In December, Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi dissident based in Montreal, filed a lawsuit in Israel claiming that NSO software was used to target his phone earlier in the year — at a time when he was in regular contact with the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In October, Khashoggi is believed to have been killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Last August, Amnesty International said it believed it had been targeted. We welcome any specific information that can assist us in further investigating of the matter. NSO Group limits sales of its Pegasus spyware to state intelligence agencies. Once installed on a phone, the software can extract all of the data that is already on the device, such as text messages, contacts, GPS location, email and browser history.

AP reported the meetings appeared to be an attempt to goad them into making racist and anti-Israel remarks or revealing sensitive information about their work in connection with the lawsuits. Topics Technology.

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Reuse this content. Most popular.Our use of messaging applications has soared through isolation and the information overload that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic.

It is now clear that the unprecedented public health emergency we are living through has also seen a surge in cyber crime. Every imaginable scamfrom phishing to malware, and from delivery hijacks to counterfeits, has grown exponentially in recent weeks. And so it comes as little surprise that an alarming WhatsApp hack that has been going around for a year is now back and experiencing a new surge.

The bad news is that this is stupidly simple for a cyber criminal to execute, and it seems people fall for it in their droves. The good news is that the fix is guaranteed and will take you less than two minutes. I set out how that works below—you need to do it now. When you install WhatsApp on a new phone, the platform asks for the phone number of the account, which you enter, and then it sends an SMS one-time code to that number. That proves you have the number in your possession. Once you enter the right code, the phone starts to receive WhatsApp messages for that account.

That six-digit code is the WhatsApp verification code for the new victim—by sending it to their friend they are really sending it to the attacker. The usual intent of the attack is to use a hijacked WhatsApp account to ask for money, to claim an emergency or an account lock-up, and to ask friends to help out. With WhatsApp, there is no risk that backed up messages can be hijacked, but the attacker will see the groups you are in and the new messages you receive.

It is a crude attack, but it has proven exceptionally effective. This is s ocial engineering at its best—we are coded to trust and help out our friends. There have been other attacks covering other platforms using the same method. When a code is sent to your phone it relates to your phone.

The platform sets the code and sends it to you. But there is a totally separate setting in your own WhatsApp application that allows you to set your own six-digit PIN number. There is some confusion because these are both six-digit numbers—but they are entirely separate. It takes less than a minute to set up. The PIN is for you to select, and even has the option of a backup email address. I first covered this hack back in Januaryand was amazed at how many people did not use this basic security feature—I suggested to WhatsApp that it needs to be better advertised and I retain that view.

In the meantime, if you have been the victim of this hack, reinstall WhatsApp and ask for a fresh activation code. That will reset the app on your phone.

whatsapp virus attack

It may take some time to work. I have received reports of users not being able to easily restore a hijacked account, although it is just a matter of time. Once you do restore your account, set up a PIN right away. That way, you will not be caught twice.

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I write about the intersection. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, and analyze breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd me.Hackers were able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in messaging app WhatsApp, it has been confirmed.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack targeted a "select number" of users and was orchestrated by "an advanced cyber-actor". On Monday, WhatsApp urged all of its 1.

WhatsApp promotes itself as a "secure" communications app because messages are end-to-end encryptedmeaning they should only be displayed in a legible form on the sender or recipient's device.

However, the surveillance software would have let an attacker read the messages on the target's device. Some users of the app have questioned why the app store notes associated with the latest update are not explicit about the fix. It involved attackers using WhatsApp's voice calling function to ring a target's device. Even if the call was not picked up, the surveillance software could be installed. According to the FT report, the call would often disappear from the device's call log.

WhatsApp told the BBC its security team was the first to identify the flaw. It shared that information with human rights groups, selected security vendors and the US Department of Justice earlier this month. The firm also published an advisory to security specialistsin which it described the flaw as: "A buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP [voice over internet protocol] stack allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP [secure real-time transport protocol] packets sent to a target phone number.

Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey said it was a "pretty old-fashioned" method of attack. It overflows the memory it should have and hence has access to memory in which malicious code can potentially be run," he explained. Consequently you did not need to answer the call for the attack to work.

While some cyber-security companies report the flaws they find so that they can be fixed, others keep problems to themselves so they can be exploited or sold to law enforcement. NSO's flagship software, Pegasus, has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device, including capturing data through the microphone and camera, and gathering location data.

In a statement, the group said: "NSO's technology is licensed to authorised government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror. We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation.

WhatsApp said it was too early to know how many users had been affected by the vulnerability, although it added that suspected attacks were highly-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.

She said there was mounting evidence that the tools were being used by regimes to keep prominent activists and journalists under surveillance. Do you have more information about this or any other technology story? Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran. WhatsApp: How to stay safe on social media. WhatsApp restricts message-sharing to fight fake news.

whatsapp virus attack

How WhatsApp is being abused in Brazil's elections. A fix was rolled out on Friday. Facebook first discovered the flaw in WhatsApp earlier in May. How do I update WhatsApp? Open the App Store At the bottom of the screen, tap Updates If WhatsApp has recently been updated, it will appear in the list of apps with a button that says Open If WhatsApp has not been automatically updated, the button will say Update.

How was the security flaw used? What is encryption? What we know about the secretive NSO Group. Who is behind the software? Who has been targeted? What are the unanswered questions? How many people were targeted?

WhatsApp says it is too early in its investigation to say how many people were targeted, or how long the flaw was present in the app Does updating WhatsApp remove the spyware?WhatsApp is urging users to download the latest version of the software after reports that a notorious form of malware has been used for phone surveillance.

Both Android and iOS versions of the Facebook-owned app, which is marketed as a secure method of communication to more than 1. The report sent shockwaves across the cybersecurity community after revealing that the attack was transmitted via voice call—infecting devices even if calls were not answered—and was used to target a U.

The powerful Pegasus malware —typically sold by the company to intelligence agencies—can spy on voice calls and text messages while also recording audio and video from phones. It is still not clear how many WhatsApp users have been affected, but the company pushed out a patch last Friday and issued the urgent update to its wider user base Monday. While staying ahead of nation-state hacking threats is extremely difficult, making sure your app is updated is, thankfully, a simple process.

On iOS, it is the same process, but use the App Store. New software versions contain the newest features and bug fixes, WhatsApp said. The security loophole that enabled the WhatsApp hack was discovered this month, according to the Financial Times. The problem was reported to the U. Department of Justice in the past week. In a statement to the BBC, NSO Group said its spy tools are used for combating "crime and terror"—despite its software having been linked to the surveillance of human rights groups in the past.

The company distanced itself from the newly exposed surveillance operation. We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system," NSO Group said in its release. WhatsApp did not reference the company's name in its public response but noted it had "all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware.

In August last year, Amnesty International revealed that one of its staff members had received a booby-trapped WhatsApp message that was linked to NSO spyware infrastructure. Danna Ingleton, deputy program director of Amnesty's technology division, said in a statement Monday: "NSO Group sells its products to governments who are known for outrageous human rights abuses, giving them the tools to track activists and critics.

The attack on Amnesty International was the final straw. The group said Pegasus had been tied to surveillance on two dozen human rights campaigners. Those potentially included Jamal Khashoggi, the assassinated Saudi journalist who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, The New York Times first reported.Choose your reason below and click on the Report button.

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Font Size Abc Small. Abc Medium. Abc Large. The alert by WhatsApp, delivered to the agency later in May, did not have any mention that the malware used in the attack was Pegasusdeveloped by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Groupthe source said. In Video: WhatsApp snooping row: All you need to know. CERT-In speaks like a layman when it says that Whatsup did not inform it about the seriousness of the issue.

View Comments Add Comments. Browse Companies:. To see your saved stories, click on link hightlighted in bold.If you are one of the 1. It doesn't matter if you avoid clicking fraudulent links, avoid visiting insecure sites, avoid downloading suspicious applications, and follow all other security measures — you are vulnerable.

WhatsApp confirms it's been targeted by spyware. That's exactly its customers' fear

Scary, right? Read on. This Facebook-owned app, which uses end-to-end encryption and was considered to be secure until now, has been breached by a spyware known as Pegasus. According to a report from the Financial Times, WhatsApp can be exploited by the spyware, which was developed by an Israel-based cyber-intelligence company called NSO.

This is one of the largest zero-day bugs in recent times. A zero-day vulnerability is one in which an attacker exploits a security hole before the company patches it. The devices will be affected irrespective of whether the user answers the call or not. Moreover, according to the report from Financial Times, the infected call does not even get stored in the call logs.

According to Facebookall smartphones running on various operating systems including Android, iOS, Windows, or Tizen OS can be victimized by the malware. As per the Financial Times, the bug was released in an attempt to gain access to the data on the phone of a UK-based human rights lawyer.

whatsapp virus attack

This is not the first time a human-rights organization has been the victim of an attack. If you've received any such call, then you could possibly be a victim.

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Facebook has confirmed that they have fixed the issue and have implemented server-side changes. The company has also pushed out the fixed and updated version of WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business applications across all the platforms. In order to stay safe, users need to check for updates and install the latest version of the application.

End-to-end encryption has become a marketing term for most companies providing a social messaging platform. The messages and data sent using an end-to-end secure channel make it difficult for hackers to decrypt.

However, all these security measures work merely on the application-level. Cybersecurity is a never-ending war between cybercriminals and InfoSec experts.

This Simple WhatsApp Hack Will Hijack Your Account: Here’s What You Must Do Now

No matter how secure a system is, it is just a matter of time for hackers to find a loophole to cash in the vulnerabilities. We, as end users, need to make sure that the basics are followed and applied right. Staying up-to-date in terms of updates and security patches for applications is an absolute essential. Sukesh is a Technology Consultant by profession and an IT enterprise and tech enthusiast by passion. He holds a Masters degree in Software Engineering and has filled in various roles such as Developer, Analyst, and Consultant in his professional career.

He holds an expertise in mobile and wearable technologies and is a Certified Scrum Master. Your email address will not be published. Learn about the latest security threats, system optimization tricks, and the hottest new technologies in the industry.

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I understand that by submitting this form my personal information is subject to the TechGenix Privacy Policy. Free Active Directory Auditing with Netwrix. TECHGENIX TechGenix reaches millions of IT Professionals every month, and has set the standard for providing free technical content through its growing family of websites, empowering them with the answers and tools that are needed to set up, configure, maintain and enhance their networks.London CNN Business Governments and medical officials are scrambling to provide the public with accurate and timely information about the novel coronavirus.

But those efforts are being undermined by the spread of medical misinformation and fake cures on one of the world's most popular messaging platforms. Facebook has a coronavirus problem. It's WhatsApp. More Videos How a coronavirus 'infodemic' is infecting the internet. Facebook bans QAnon across its platforms. This crease in Biden's shirt fueled a conspiracy theory. We asked Trump supporters to show us their Facebook feeds.

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Watch Elon Musk show how the Neuralink brain implant works — using a pig. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook FBis coming under renewed scrutiny over how it handles misinformation as the coronavirus pandemic rampages across the globe, infecting more thanpeople and killing over 8, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The platform is being used to spread messages that often contain a mixture of accurate and misleading claims that have been debunked by medical experts.

The problem is now so acute that world leaders are urging people to stop sharing unverified information using the app. Please get your info from official, trusted sources. People are being encouraged to put up Christmas lights to spread cheer while they're social distancing.

The misinformation often arrives on smartphones in messages that have been forwarded by a friend or relative, and includes information purportedly from a prominent doctor or a friend of a friend who works in government.

Many of the messages mix sound advice, such as how to wash your hands properly, with misinformation. One false claim that is circulating: drinking warm water every 15 minutes will neutralize the coronavirus.