Founded in 2009,
WhatsApp has quickly launched into immense popularity- with a whopping 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries; there is no denying the scope and
impact that WhatsApp has, primarily because of its massive user base.
However, with a
messaging platform as gigantic as WhatsApp, with over 65 billion messages being
sent each day, security issues and privacy concerns are bound to arise.
From the arsenal
of security threats and vulnerabilities that WhatsApp faces each day, mentioned
below are the most pressing security risks that users need to be cautious of:
Perhaps the most
apparent ghost haunting the realm of WhatsApp is the ghost of malware.
enjambment of the terms ‘malicious’ and ‘software,’ is highly prevalent on the
Facebook-owned messaging platform, mainly because of its massive user base,
which invites hackers and cyber-criminals alike to exploit the vulnerabilities
of the messaging service.
On the mobile app, hackers utilize a series of ways to
infiltrate the messaging service, some of which include:
have exploited the need for users to gain exclusivity by integrating stardom
with the popularity of WhatsApp, creating a sketchy messaging service by the
name of ‘WhatsApp Gold.’
of the standard green icon, WhatsApp Gold had a gold icon and promised its
users exclusive chats with celebrities. However, all the app ever did was to
collect users personal information through exposed malware.
WhatsApp Video Calling:
you thought that cyber-criminals could only spread malware in WhatsApp through
its messaging feature, you were unfortunately mistaken.
the video calling feature integrated into WhatsApp, hackers can send malware
that collects sensitive information through third party links within the
of us who use WhatsApp regularly have probably been at the receiving end of
chain messages urging us to click on a link to ‘win $50000.’
with a premise as unbelievable as that, it’s a surprise people fall into the
trap. But it is through these sketchy and shady links that hackers and
cyber-criminals scoop through our smartphones to collect data on us, which
could later be exploited in a multitude of ways.
consequence of opening links on WhatsApp can be felt when we take into
perspective that Skygofree, a spyware that could prove to the most
significant threat when it comes to privacy concerns.
could efficiently be utilized by cyber-criminals to take pictures and record
WhatsApp messages, including audio recordings, location, passwords, browsing
history to name a few.
- New color feature:
A specific type
of malware found in WhatsApp trapped users by claiming to change the colors of
the messaging service.
would then instruct users to send the message to 10 contacts or 5 WhatsApp
groups, which would then result in the user’s smartphone being bombarded with
fake notifications and advertisements that make the hackers a profit.
Apart from this,
many hackers masquerade themselves as WhatsApp Web, to install malware onto
computers, which could have dreadful consequences.
To prevent this situation from occurring, users need to make sure that they are installing the authentic version of the messaging software on their devices.
2-Unencrypted Backups on WhatsApp:
WhatsApp are encrypted through ‘End-to-End’ encryption, which is a critical feature that WhatsApp prides itself in.
encryption, to put it in simpler terms, is a type of encryption that allows the
messages to be decoded only by the recipients and the sender’s devices, which
prohibits any third party, including WhatsApp and Facebook from viewing the
content of your messages.
factor that could seriously undermine End-to-End encryption is that WhatsApp
allows you to store a backup of your messages on your device, in case they get
There are two
types of backup available on WhatsApp; the first one is a local backup on your
device whereas the second type allows a cloud-based backup.
WhatsApp backups are stored on Google Drive, whereas for iOS, backups are
stored on iCloud.
Both of these
backup files contain unencrypted messages and media, which gives it the status of
sacrificial cows for cyber-criminals, adamant on stealing your data.
Although no such
large scale hacks on Google Drive and iCloud have occurred yet, that doesn’t
mean that it’s a cause for celebration. Instead, WhatsApp users need to be more
vigilant than ever.
hackers wanting to conduct large scale phishing attacks, these backup files are nothing short of
gold for governments looking for new espionage techniques.
3- Facebook’s relation to WhatsApp:
Let’s get it out
in the open; Facebook doesn’t have the best of reputations when it comes to
safeguarding its user’s privacy.
With blood still gushing out from the wounds
inflicted on the privacy landscape by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s safe to say that people are still
wary of Facebook.
announced that it was integrating WhatsApp in 2014, to say that people were skeptical is the
understatement of the century.
Union (EU) only approved of the transaction after Facebook assured that they
would store the data for both the platforms separately.
didn’t take a long time for Facebook to forego on this agreement. In 2016,
Facebook to WhatsApp.
The steps taken by Facebook in 2016 are following Facebook’s plans for the future since the tech giant announced that it would be launching a single integrated messaging tool for WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram.
announcement, combined with the notorious reputation that Facebook has garnered
over recent years, has raised many suspicions from cyber-specialists over the
world since it gives more power to Facebook, which has proven it to be
untrustworthy despite the promises made.
4- WhatsApp Status:
February 24, 2017, the WhatsApp status has catapulted in popularity.
WhatsApp status closely mimics the favorite Instagram stories, it was welcomed
by users with open hands.
the story feature on Instagram, the function present on WhatsApp raises some
story was designed to be seen by the general public, whereas all of your
contacts can view the WhatsApp story, whether you want them to or not.
those WhatsApp users who take privacy seriously, the status settings can be
configured in such a way that allows users to block certain users from viewing
their status, thereby effectively minimizing the risks of hacking and data
As is the case
with Instagram and Snapchat stories, users will find that their WhatsApp
stories will disappear after 24 hours.
5-Fake News on WhatsApp:
Perhaps the most
dreadful vulnerability present on WhatsApp is the circulation of fake news and hoaxes through the messaging
media platforms have been at the forefront of spreading misinformation and
false claims through their platforms.
platforms, Facebook and WhatsApp have been the most prevalent, with Facebook
spreading and circulating misinformation during the 2016 U.S presidential
WhatsApp has been scrutinized for the propagation of fake news, as seen
particularly in India.
forwarded through WhatsApp containing details of false child kidnappings lead
to widespread violence in India in 2017 and 2018.
the recent election taking place in India, and aggravated tensions between
India and Pakistan, many have used WhatsApp as a platform to create and forward propaganda.
Keeping the impact that fake news and false information has on people, WhatsApp has put limits on forwarding messages as well as an authentication tool to check whether something is fake news or not.
Now that you
know all about the security threats and risks occupying WhatsApp, you might be
wondering whether or not to use the messaging platform.
Well, the answer
to that question is yes.
there isn’t a single app on the market that provides the features that WhatsApp
does, which makes WhatsApp almost integral to the online experience of many.
As for the
drawbacks, WhatsApp set a milestone when it incorporated End-to-End encryption
in the platform.
We can only hope that the company continues to
improve in the future and works on the security and privacy loopholes present
in the popular messaging service.
Until then, it is our responsibility as users to be cautious and aware of the threats present, as well as their solutions.