WhatsApp security under threat, are you being spied?

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The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen 3 August 2017 (Thomas White/Reuters)

WhatsApp, the popular instant messenger owned by Facebook is now being used by more than 1.3 billion people all around the world. As the popularity of this messenger is reaching new heights, security threats associated with the application are also getting exposed. A new research conducted by the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany has found a potential possibility of hackers spying on group chats in WhatsApp.

End to End encryption failing in group chats

It was around two years back that WhatsApp introduced End to End encryption in their platform to raise the bar for privacy during communication. But in the case of group chats, End to End encryption literally fails to achieve its goal, and sometimes, messages can easily reach the fingertips of infiltrators who enter the group via hacking. According to the new research, anyone who controls WhatsApp's servers could easily insert new people into a private group even without the permission of the group's administrator.

"The confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them. If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against. And if not, the value of encryption is very little," said Paul Rösler, one of the researcher at the Rohr University who took part in the study.

As per a report published in the Wired, it has been learned that WhatsApp employees, sophisticated hackers and government who legally demand access can take control of WhatsApp servers.

Once a person enters a group without permission, he receives a secret key from all users in the group which helps him to read all messages sent from that moment. Fortunately, the infiltrator will not be capable of reading previous messages sent before his entry.

Even though the news of WhatsApp security flaw app is revealed by researchers, the spokesperson for the company said that it cannot be considered as an actual security breach, as people used to get a notification when new people get added to the group.

"On WhatsApp, existing members of a group are notified when new people are added. WhatsApp is built so group messages cannot be send to hidden users and provides multiple ways for users to confirm who receives a message prior to it being sent," posted Facebook's Chief Security officer Alex Stamos on his Twitter page.

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