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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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Copyright 2018 NewsGram

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WhatsApp Wrote To IT Ministry That It Is Horrified By Acts Of Violence

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year

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A bug is being forwarded via messages which when tapped, could send not just the WhatsApp Android app crashing but possibly even the entire Android device as well, the media reported.
WhatsApp Wrote To IT Ministry That It Is Horrified By Acts Of Violence. Pixabay

Taking cognisance of the Indian government’s concerns over the misuse of its platform for repeated circulation of provocative content, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Wednesday wrote to the IT Ministry, saying the company is horrified by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry on Tuesday asked WhatsApp to take immediate action and ensure that the platform is not used for such malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours and provocation circulated on the mobile messaging platform.

“Thank you for your letter dated July 2. Like the Government of India, we’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised. We believe this is a challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together,” WhatsApp said in the reply to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India, listed several measures it is taking or has already put in action to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform.

“We have been testing a new label in India that highlights when a message has been forwarded versus composed by the sender.

“This could serve as an important signal for recipients to think twice before forwarding messages because it lets a user know if content they received was written by the person they know or a potential rumor from someone else. We plan to launch this new feature soon,” the company informed.

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

In Mid-May, said WhatsApp, it added new protections to prevent people from adding others back into groups which they had left — a form of misuse they thought it is important to correct.

WhatsApp Logo
WhatsApp Logo. Image source: Pixabay

“Last week, we launched a new setting that enables administrators to decide who gets to send messages within individual groups. This will help reduce the spread of unwanted messages into important group conversations – as well as the forwarding of hoaxes and other content,” the popular messaging platform noted.

WhatsApp has also announced a new project to work with leading academic experts in India to learn more about the spread of misinformation.

“The fact-checking organisation Boom Live is available on WhatsApp and has published some reports on the source of the rumours that have contributed to the recent violence,” the company said.

While WhatsApp messages can be highly viral, the way people use the app is by nature still very private.

“Many people (nearly 25 per cent in India) are not in a group; the majority of groups continue to be small (less than 10 people); and nine in 10 messages are still sent from just one person to another,” WhatsApp informed.

The company also asked to Indian government to talk further about the actions it is taking and its plans going forward.

“With the right action we can help improve everyone’s safety by ensuring communities are better equipped to deal with malicious hoaxes and false information — while still enabling people to communicate reliably and privately across India,” it noted.

Also read: WhatsApp Copies Telegram to Add One-way ‘Broadcast’ Mode to Group Chats

WhatsApp also announced to soon start an engagement programme with the law enforcement officials across the country so “they are familiar with our approach and how we can be helpful”. (IANS)