Thursday, 18 January, 2018

WhatsApp flaw lets hackers spy on group chats

Filepc Digit Filepc Digit
June Sullivan | 12 January, 2018, 03:27

The issues are encryption flaws and were detailed at the Real Word Crypto security conference in Zurich, Switzerland by researchers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

WhatsApp is adding numerous features to its platform to enhance the user experience.

Anyone wanting to slide into other people's DMs would need access to WhatsApp's servers, which means it would have to be an extremely skilled hacker, an employee or a member of the intelligence services.

German cryptographers have found a way to infiltrate WhatsApp's group chats despite its end-to-end encryption. "And if not, the value of encryption is very little", further added Paul Rosler.

Firstly, control of WhatsApp servers tends to be only possible by Facebook (which owns WhatsApp), and governments who can demand access to the servers. Especially when governments legally coerce information out of them. Encryption is just part of a robust security strategy.

The attacker can break the transport layer security and take full control over a group.

A flaw in popular encrypted chat programs WhatsApp, Threema and Signal theoretically allows nearly anyone to control important servers, bypass encryption and add themselves to group chats. This does not mean that the remaining members of the group won't know that a new one has joined.

In their report, the researchers have also described several methods which can be used to delay the detection of a new participant.

"He can cache all the messages and then decide which get sent to whom and which not", said Rösler when speaking to Wired. However, doing so leaves traces as this operation is listed in the graphical user interface and the WhatsApp server can thus use the fact that it can stealthily reorder and drop messages in the group. "An attacker who compromises the Telegram server can, undetected, recover every message that was sent in the past and receive all messages transmitted in the future without anyone receiving any notification at all". We built WhatsApp so group messages can not be sent to a hidden user.

Once a person is added, everyone in the chat automatically shares secret keys with that user.

Researchers found in November that deleted messages were actually still on the device, and could easily be accessed through the app's Settings.

The researchers have disclosed their findings to the three companies developing the messengers last summer, and Threema has already pushed out a fix.

He also said there are multiple ways to check and verify the members of a group chat.

This is a big problem, because WhatsApp prides itself on end-to-end encryption for its messages. "There is no way to suppress this message", he wrote.

The best way for Sun readers to stay safe from this exploit is to always be mindful of who else is in your WhatsApp group.

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