Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

WhatsApp Discovers Surveillance Attack, Urges Users to Upgrade

WhatsApp Discovers Surveillance Attack, Urges Users to Upgrade

It's unclear how many Android and iOS devices were affected by the vulnerability, but as you can imagine, anyone with access to the spyware could hack any WhatsApp user.

He said WhatsApp also provided information to USA law enforcement officials to assist in their investigation.

WhatsApp has urged its 1.5 billion users to upgrade the app after the Facebook-owned platform discovered a vulnerability that allowed a spyware to be installed on users' phones via the app's phone call function.

In fact, it seems the malicious code could be installed via a simple phone call to a targets' device.

Pegasus runs on Google Android and Apple iOS devices, and can delete call logs, activate the camera and microphone, and access and exfiltrate location information and messages.

WhatsApp has alerted human rights groups and the US Justice Department.

"We are deeply concerned about the abuse of such capabilities", WhatsApp said in a statement.

WhatsApp said the attack had all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to infect phones. Most notably, the spyware was implicated in the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul past year and whose body has never been found.

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WhatsApp says the advance cyber threat was first discovered earlier this month and had been used to target a "select number" of users.

NSO Group told the Financial Times: "Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is exclusively operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies".

According to WhatsApp, it suspects a relatively small number of users were targeted.

NSO is most well-known for the sale of its spyware, Pegasus, to state intelligence agencies.

Exploiting this kind of vulnerability is non-trivial, though there are highly skilled organizations and companies out there developing tools that can achieve this level of surveillance, tools that are sold to government agencies and other groups to use against specific targets. "NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation".

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. But it may have been used to attack a UK-based human rights lawyer this past Sunday, according to Citizen Lab, a watchdog group at the University of Toronto, which has been investigating NSO Group's activities.

NSO sent a statement in response to questions about this attack.

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