WhatsApp bug lets hackers sneak inside group chats

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

However, a team of German researchers claims that they have discovered flaws in WhatsApp group chat.

According to a report in Wired.com, the cryptographers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany announced this at the "Real World Crypto Security Conference" in Zurich, Switzerland, on Wednesday. According to the paper, investigation into "end-to-end protected group communications" has gained only little attention.

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.

This is because a notification does go through that a new, unknown member has joined the group, alerting people of the new unknown member. The WhatsApp server can therefore use the fact that it can stealthily reorder and drop messages in the group. However, in a group conversation, the role of servers increases to merge the entire process and it is here where the vulnerability lies - trusting the company's servers to manage group members, who have full access to a group conversation, and their actions, The Hacker News reports.

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According to the research, Signal and WhatsApp fail to properly authenticate who is adding a new member to the group and it is possible for an unauthorised person, who is not even a member of the group, to add someone to the group chat. Existing members are notified when new people are added to a WhatsApp group. In such a case, it is impossible for them to share details with enforcement agencies that they themselves can not access. As a result, any potential flaw that impacts WhatsApp's privacy is cause for concern, ' says Jing Xie, senior digital security researcher at Venafi. The application has been designed in such a way that the group messages can not be sent to any hidden user.

However, there's potential for sophisticated hackers to use techniques to selectively block new group messages, as once the new member is added the encryption keys are shared between phones using WhatsApp, which would help interlopers avoid immediate detection.

"WhatsApp has looked at the report carefully - following the researcher's plan would necessitate a change to the way WhatsApp provides a popular feature called group invite links - which are used millions of times per day", he said in one of the tweets. Additionally, shared messages can be encrypted too.

So if you see someone new entering your group, speak to the other members in private chats to confirm the new person's identity. It is said that this flaw can comprise of the end-to-end encryption of the messaging platform. The attackers might send spoofed messages in order to prevent the administrator from removing spy from the private conversation.

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