Thursday January 17, 2019
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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)

Next Story

WhatsApp Working on Fingerprint Authentication Feature For Chats

This feature would be available in future for any Android user (and later for iOS users too) having Android Marshmallow and newer operating systems and a fingerprint sensor

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp working on fingerprint authentication for chats: Report. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is reportedly working on a fingerprint authentication feature to protect its users’ chats from being seen by others.

According to WABetaInfo, a fan site that tests new WhatsApp features early, the feature is current under development in Beta for Android 2.19.3 version.

“After working to implement Face ID and Touch ID features on iOS (that aren’t available yet for development reasons), WhatsApp has finally started to work on the Authentication feature on Android, using your Fingerprint!” said the report on Tuesday.

WhatsApp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device.

The fingerprint authentication feature will be available within the app under a new section.

Once you enable the fingerprint feature, your WhatsApp will be completely protected from others to be seen.

Also Read- Here’s How Breastfeeding is Linked to Being a Righty or Lefty

“The user will need to authenticate his identity in order to open WhatsApp (from the app icon, from the notification or from external pickers). It will protect the entire app, so it’s not used to lock specific conversations,” the report added.

This feature would be available in future for any Android user (and later for iOS users too) having Android Marshmallow and newer operating systems and a fingerprint sensor. (IANS)