WhatsApp security loophole can add uninvited members to your groups
WhatsApp security loophole can add uninvited members to your groups
WhatsApp 'bug' raises questions over group message privacy
11 January, 2018, 15:26
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.
The researchers presented their findings at the Real World Cryptosecurity conference in Zurich on Wednesday (10 January), Wired reports. The obvious examples that come to mind are hackers who manage to gain access to WhatsApp servers or a government successfully pressuring WhatsApp to give it access to targeted group chats.
"If someone hacks the WhatsApp server, they can obviously alter the group membership".
As per a report on Wired, German Researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum described a series of flaws in encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Threema. 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.
On the surface level, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, looks to have a pretty big security flaw. "Only an administrator of a WhatsApp 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.
"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. "If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against". While usually, the administrator of a group is the only one who can invite a new person to a private chat, there isn't a mechanism now in place to authenticate that invitation.
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WhatsApp representatives told Wired there would be no fixes as a result of the research and that notifications of new chat additions are warning enough.
While, the group and the chats themselves have a layer of end-to-end encryption, the servers that the chats run on don't. We built WhatsApp so group messages can not be sent to a hidden user.
He rounded up the conversation by saying - "In sum, the clear notifications and multiple ways of checking who is in your group prevents silent eavesdropping". In such a case, it is impossible for them to share details with enforcement agencies that they themselves can not access.
In January past year, the Guardian newspaper reported that WhatsApp was vulnerable to interception, sparking concern over the app that marketed itself as a privacy leader.
But, as it turns out, the Signal protocol does not check whether the message was sent by an actual member of the group, meaning that anyone outside the group can send the message and, consequently, add a new user to the group.
Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos wrote on Twitter that the bug is not effective because WhatsApp users are notified when new members join conversations.
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