WhatsApp bug allows infiltration of private group chats without admin permissions

WhatsApp

Researchers said the flaw in WhatsApp can allow anyone who controls the platform's servers to add new people into a private group without needing permission from the group chat's administrator to enter the conversation.

German cryptographers have found a way to infiltrate WhatsApp's group chats despite its end-to-end encryption.

In their paper titled More is Less: On the End-to-End security of group chats in Signal, WhatsApp and Threema, they have outlined a series of flaws that allows an impostor to invade your group chats or worse yet, control who gets added or deleted to the group.

Reacting to the report, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos tweeted: "Read the Wired article about WhatsApp - scary headline!" All group members are deemed administrators, and can thus add a new group member by sending an encrypted group management message to the other participants.

We completed the implementation of end-to-end encryption in 2016 for all messaging and calling on WhatsApp so that no one, not even us, has access to the content of your conversations.

However, Facebook which owns WhatsApp has downplayed the news by assuring that only authorised personnel are allowed to access WhatsApp servers.

Yesterday, we reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray asked messaging apps and social media companies to create encryption backdoors exclusively for authorities so that they could nab criminals and deter crimes without compromising the security of the public at large.

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"The privacy and security of our users are incredibly important to WhatsApp".

The researchers noted that if a person were to gain access to WhatsApp servers, then he or she can read group chats, add or remove people from a group or take admin rights of the group which puts them in charge.

We've looked at this issue carefully.

However, there's potential for sophisticated hackers to use techniques to selectively block new group messages, as once the new member is added the encryption keys are shared between phones using WhatsApp, which would help interlopers avoid immediate detection. In such a case, it is impossible for them to share details with enforcement agencies that they themselves can not access. The flaw takes advantage of an issue in how WhatsApp handles group chats.

The idea behind encryption is to muddle your messages so only you and the recipient can read texts you send. The membership of a group can be seen by tapping on "group info".

A WhatsApp spokesperson said to the Wired that "no one can secretly add a new member to a group and a notification does go through that a new, unknown member has joined the group". "There is no way to suppress this message", he wrote. "It could even prevent any administrator's attempt to remove the eavesdropper from the group if discovered", Rösler said.

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