Facebook Dismisses Claim WhatsApp Chat Groups Can Be Infiltrated

Creepy hackers could secretly eavesdrop on your private WhatsApp group chats, experts claim

Research carried out by a German cryptography team found that a flaw in how the app interacts with WhatsApp's severs, controlled by Facebook, allows anyone with access to those servers to easily insert new people into a private group chat.

While researchers say that infiltration to group chats and spying on users can be done secretly, WhatsApp spokesperson told Wired that it's impossible.

Researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum analyzed flaws in three encryption chat apps: WhatsApp, Signal and Threema. "But there is no [sic] a secret way into WhatsApp groups chats", he tweeted. 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.

'The content of messages sent in WhatsApp groups remain protected by end-to-end encryption'. I think it would be better if the server didn't have metadata visibility into group membership, but that's a largely unsolved problem, and it's unrelated to confidentiality of group messages.

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Here's how the researchers explained the bug on WhatsApp.

The issue is that WhatsApp does not use any authentication mechanism for an invite sent out by a group administrator.

"The described weaknesses enable attacker A, who controls the WhatsApp server or can break the transport layer security, to take full control over a group".

They found that anyone with control over WhatsApp's servers can add people to private group chats, including staff, hackers and governments who legally demand access.

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In response to the study, which was first reported by Wired, Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos wrote on Twitter: 'Read the Wired article today about WhatsApp - scary headline!

WhatsApp said that the "group invitation bug" is a theoretical danger that's additionally minimized by the fact that users will receive a notification about a new user joining the group. This makes it possible for the server to add a new member to that group without any contact with the group admin. "The main exception to this is former group members, who already know the group ID - and can now add themselves back to the group with impunity".

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

So if you see someone new entering your group, speak to the other members in private chats to confirm the new person's identity. "It could even prevent any administrator's attempt to remove the eavesdropper from the group if discovered", Rösler said. "From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats", company said in its blog post. "There is no way to suppress this message".

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