WhatsApp bug allows infiltration of private group chats without admin permissions

Creepy hackers could secretly eavesdrop on your private WhatsApp group chats, experts claim

WhatsApp group chats might not be so secure and can easily be infiltrated without permission of the group admin, according to a team of German security researchers.

New people added to a particular WhatsApp group without the administrator's permission will be able to read new messages posted by members of the group, thereby compromising the confidentiality and privacy that members belonging to a private WhatsApp group enjoy.

Researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany had announced they had discovered flaws in WhatsApp's security at the Real World Crypto security conference in Switzerland, according to Wired.

On the surface level, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, looks to have a pretty big security flaw.

It's not a problem that will impact most users, but chat apps like Signal and WhatsApp have been used for private conversations from everyone ranging from politicians to government dissenters. "The content of messages sent in WhatsApp groups remains protected by end-to-end encryption".

It is common for existing members to be alerted when new members are added to the WhatsApp group.

The research group turned its attention to messaging tools Signal, WhatsApp, and Threema, but it was only Facebook's WhatsApp that gave cause for concern. Only an administrator of a WhatsApp group can invite new members, but WhatsApp doesn't use any authentication mechanism for that invitation that its own servers can't spoof.

While gaining access to WhatsApp servers are limited to the abilities of advanced hackers, the question is what happens when they gain access?

"While our investigation focuses on three major instant messaging applications, our methodology and the underlying model is of generic goal and can be applied to other secure group instant messaging protocols as well", researchers concluded in the paper.

As per the research, Signal and WhatsApp fail to properly authenticate that who is adding a new member to the group and it is possible for an unauthorized person, who is not even a member of the group, to add someone to the group chat. The fear for some people is that this security flaw will result in WhatsApp being coerced by government agencies into allowing the flaw to be exploited to eavesdrop on conversations.

WhatsApp is yet to respond to this report.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said to the Wired that "no one can secretly add a new member to a group and a notification does go through that a new, unknown member has joined the group". If they add themselves to the group: 1. But many attacks on encrypted systems don't break the encryption - they bypass it as the processes around the encrypted data are usually far weaker than even bad encryption. The membership of a group can be seen by tapping on "group info". "There is no way to suppress this message", he wrote. "The chat app in 2016 brought the chat end-to-end encryption".

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