Hackers abused WhatsApp flaw to instal spyware

By BLOOMBERG

SAN FRANCISCO • A security flaw in WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, allowed sophisticated attackers to instal spyware on phones, the company said yesterday, in the latest trouble for its parent Facebook.

The vulnerability — first reported by the Financial Times (FT) and fixed in the latest WhatsApp update — allowed hackers to insert mal icious software on phones by calling the target using the app, which is used by 1.5 billion people around the world.

The FT cited a spyware dealer as saying the tool was developed by a shadowy Israel-based firm called the NSO Group, which has been accused of helping governments from the Middle East to Mexico snoop on activists and journalists. Security researchers said the malicious code bore similarities to other tech developed by the firm, according to The New York Times.

The latest exploit — which impacts Android devices and Apple’s iPhones, among others — was discovered earlier this month and WhatsApp scrambled to fix it, rolling out an update in less than 10 days.

“WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” a spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

The firm did not comment on the number of users affected or who targeted them. — Bloomberg