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Is WhatsApp safe?

A study says, group chat on the app is not safe

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  • Researchers say WhatsApp group chat is not safe. Security can be breached.
  • WhatsApp has responded by saying its end-to-end encryption cannot be breached.
  • WhatsApp plans to add more features to group chats.

Anyone who controls the app’s servers could insert new people into private group chats without needing admin permission, say cryptographers from Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

However, WhatsApp says their end-to-end encryption is impeccable and there is no risk of data breach.

Read More: WhatsApp information sharing – A Threat to Users’ Privacy

Are WhatsApp group chats safe? Wikimedia commons
Are WhatsApp group chats safe? Wikimedia Commons

What researchers say

“The confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them,” Paul Rosler, one of the Ruhr University researchers, was quoted as saying.

The report, however, did not document any threat to the way end-to-end encryption protects the content of messages sent to the app.

According to the report, the attack on group chats takes advantage of a bug.

“Only an administrator of a group can invite new members, but WhatsApp doesn’t use any authentication mechanism for that invitation that its own servers can’t spoof,” the report said.

So the server can simply add a new member to a group with no interaction on the part of the administrator.

“The phone of every participant in the group then automatically shares secret keys with that new member, giving him or her full access to any future messages,” the report added.

"The privacy and security of our users is incredibly important to WhatsApp. It's why we collect very little information and all messages sent on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted," Wikimedia commons
“The privacy and security of our users are incredibly important to us. It’s why we collect very little information and all messages sent on the app are end-to-end encrypted,” Wikimedia Commons

What WhatsApp says

Reacting to the report, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos tweeted: “Read the Wired article about WhatsApp — scary headline! But there is no secret way into WhatsApp groups chats. The article makes a few key points.”

In a statement to IANS on Thursday, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “We’ve looked at this issue carefully. Existing members are notified when new people are added to a WhatsApp group. We built WhatsApp so group messages cannot be sent to a hidden user.

Also read: WhatsApp asked not to share data with Facebook

“The privacy and security of our users is incredibly important to WhatsApp. It’s why we collect very little information and all messages sent on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted,” the spokesperson added.

WhatsApp provides users with multiple ways of confirming who will receive a message prior to it being sent.

In every WhatsApp group, users see a special blue message when someone joins or leaves a group.

The membership of a group can be seen by tapping on “group info”.

For additional security, users can easily verify the security code of other group members.

The app is adding more features to group chats. Wikimedia commons
The app is adding more features to group chats. Wikimedia Commons

WhatsApp is also testing a feature where it will likely give group administrators more powers where they will be able to restrict all other members from sending text messages, photographs, videos, GIFs, documents or voice messages in case the admin thinks so.

According to WABetaInfo, a fan site that tests new WhatsApp features early, the popular mobile messaging platform has submitted the “Restricted Groups” setting via Google Play Beta Programme in the version 2.17.430.

Once restricted, other members will simply have to read their messages and will not be able to respond. They will have to use the “Message Admin” button to post a message or share media to the group. (IANS)

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Facebook not yet ready with digital payments on Messenger in India

When launched, the new payments feature is set to give a tough competition to Paytm and other digital payment services like Google Tez

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Facebook. Pixabay

Facebook has no plans as of now to bring digital payment facility to its Messenger application in India, informed sources said on Thursday. “There are currently no tests planned for recharges or peer-to-peer payments on Messenger in India,” the sources told IANS.

Factor Daily had reported that Facebook has begun a beta version of recharge payments for mobile phone and other prepaid services on Messenger. “Mobile recharge option is a Facebook ‘Marketplace’ offering — which is actually going on as a pilot test which is right now available to only Android users in some regions,” the sources added.

The icon of Facebook.
Facebook has many fake profiles. Pixabay

Launched in 2016, Marketplace is a user-to-user exchange platform for buying and selling goods with others within the community. Currently, the peer-to-peer payment service on Messenger is available for its users in the US and the UK.

More than 1.3 billion people around the world are now using Facebook Messenger every month. The growth of Messenger now puts the app at par with Facebook-owned WhatsApp which also has over 1.3 billion monthly active users (MAUs). WhatsApp, however, has rolled out the testing phase of its digital payment feature in India — a first such move globally — which will be officially rolled out to its over 200 million Indian users in the days to come.

Also Read: Facebook introduces new privacy updates for EU users

When launched, the new payments feature is set to give a tough competition to Paytm and other digital payment services like Google Tez. The payments feature would take advantage of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and include support by a number of banks, including the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank. IANS