WhatsApp discovers 'targeted' surveillance attack by "an advanced cyber-actor"
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Hackers were able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in messaging app WhatsApp, it has been confirmed.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack targeted a "select number" of users and was orchestrated by "an advanced cyber-actor".
A fix was rolled out on Friday.
On Monday, WhatsApp urged all of its 1.5 billion users to update their apps as an added precaution.
The surveillance software involved was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, according to a report in the Financial Times.
Facebook first discovered the flaw in WhatsApp earlier in May.
WhatsApp promotes itself as a "secure" communications app because messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning they should only be displayed in a legible form on the sender or recipient's device.
However, the surveillance software would have let an attacker read the messages on the target's device.
How was the security flaw used?
It involved attackers using WhatsApp's voice calling function to ring a target's device.
Even if the call was not picked up, the surveillance software could be installed. According to the FT report, the call would often disappear from the device's call log.
WhatsApp told the BBC its security team was the first to identify the flaw. It shared that information with human rights groups, selected security vendors and the US Department of Justice earlier this month.
"The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said on Monday in a briefing document note for journalists.
gee who could be interested in targeting and surveying specific groups of people who use Facebook's services ?
Almost any major government and its spy agencies. USA, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, China, the list goes on.
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