Is WhatsApp vulnerable? New bug found to crash group chats and delete history forever

The Facebook-owned company claims the bug has now been fixed.

author_img Poona M Published :  18th December 2019 05:36 PM   |   Published :   |  18th December 2019 05:36 PM

For representation only

Security researchers recently revealed that they have detected a vulnerability in WhatsApp that led to group chat crash the moment a destructive message was introduced by the hackers in the chat, leading the entire group chat history being deleted forever. This is scary because, on average, 65 billion messages are sent on WhatsApp per day by over 1.5 Billion users globally.

Earlier this year, the WhatsApp snooping row that involved privacy infringement of 121 Indian users out of 1,400 globally via third-party Israeli Pegasus spyware snowballed into a major political controversy. With the government accusing WhatsApp of not informing it on time and with details that personal data of Indians was compromised by spyware, a spokesperson for the Facebook-owned instant messaging app had said it regrets that it did not meet the "government's expectations for proactive engagement on these issues."

Urging all users to immediately update WhatsApp to the latest version, security researchers at global cybersecurity firm Check Point identified the flaw that would allow a bad actor—essentially a cybersecurity adversary that is interested in attacking information technology systems—to create a malicious group message to crash Facebook-owned WhatsApp on users' devices.

Since there was no remedy, all members of the group were forced to uninstall and reinstall WhatsApp in order to regain full use. The group chat could not be restored after the crash occurred. The bug has now been fixed. The company issued a fix to resolve the issue which is available since WhatsApp version number 2.19.58.

"Because WhatsApp is one of the world's leading communication channels for consumers, businesses and government agencies, the ability to stop people using WhatsApp and delete valuable information from group chats is a powerful weapon for bad actors," said Oded Vanunu, Check Point's Head of Product Vulnerability Research.

The Check Point Research team found the vulnerability by inspecting the communications between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Web, the web version of the app which mirrors all messages sent and received from the user's phone. This enabled researchers to see the parameters used for WhatsApp communications and manipulate them.

"All WhatsApp users should update to the latest version of the app to protect themselves against this possible attack," Vanunu added.

*Edited from an IANS report