WhatsApp Reveals Spyware Attack Has Compromised App

Published on May 14, 2019

WhatsApp revealed on Monday that its app had been compromised by an Israeli spyware attack that let would automatically download onto users’ phones through voice calls. The company has fixed the bug, and urges all WhatsApp users to update the app in their phones if they haven’t done so yet. Many users could have had their phone’s information compromised if they received a call from the spyware—even if they didn’t answer. WhatsApp claims that both Android and Apple devices have been compromised in the breach. The company did not say approximately how many phones had been effected by the spyware, but it has linked the Israeli NSO Group to the attack.

Was My Phone Hit?

The company reports that it may be hard to tell whether or not your phone was hit with the malicious spyware. WhatsApp has said, though, that the code has the ability to hack into entire phones, not just users apps. Even if there’s no way to know for sure whether your device was compromised in the WhatsApp breach, there are red flags that users can keep an eye out for if they do think they were effected.

For starters, if your phone starts acting strange or doing things it hasn’t done before it may be a sign your device has been compromised. If the battery makes major changes in a short span of time, feels hot to the touch, or shows other signs that its sending and receiving more data than usual—well, it probably is. These changes can be hard to keep track of. However, major changes should be fairly easy to spot.

The easiest way to keep track of this is by checking on which apps are using the most data and screen time. If anything seems out of the ordinary, it could be that your phone was compromised. It’s also not a bad idea to check on this regularly, anyway. Many apps could be tracking your location without your knowledge—and even if it seems like no big deal, it can be costly to anyone without unlimited data.

There is one reassuring thing about the malware attack, though. WhatsApp has assured users that the grade of spyware being used in the attack was expensive to create and execute. Odds are the target of the attack isn’t the average user because the code didn’t come from an average hacker. That means that if you’re only worried about the attack for the sake of your bank information, you’re probably safe. If you’re a high level government official, though, you may want to get things checked out. But if that’s the case, you’re probably not learning about this hack from a GritDaily article.

What Do I Do If I Was Hit?

If you were hit by the malware attack, though, you may have to get a new phone. Luckily WhatsApp is certain that this wasn’t a massive attack, and not many people were compromised by the malicious software. NGO is the pro-Israel, right wing group that WhatsApp claims is behind the attack. Right now, though, the most important thing to worry about is whether to not your own phone was compromised. The best way to assure your device is safe is to update your app with the latest version as of Tuesday. WhatsApp is certain that the update will remove the malware’s ability to work properly.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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