WhatsApp users targeted by spyware via in-app phone call

WhatsApp has closed a vulnerability which allowed spyware to be installed via voice call

WhatsApp has closed a vulnerability which allowed spyware to be installed via voice

The company has sold the software to governments around the world.

Amnesty International, an international human rights watchdog, claims one of its staffers was targeted with the Israeli-made spyware past year.

The company told the paper: "Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is exclusively operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies". Once installed on a phone, the software can extract all of the data that's already on the device (text messages, contacts, Global Positioning System location, email, browser history, etc) in addition to creating new data by using the phone's microphone and camera to record the user's surroundings and ambient sounds, according to a 2016 report by the New York Times.

It said one of its researchers had been targeted via a WhatsApp message containing NSO's spying software in 2018 while working on a campaign to release six women's rights activists detained in Saudi Arabia.

Some WhatsApp users may have had their phones infected with sophisticated spyware through a missed in-app call alone, the company says.

The Facebook-owned firm admitted that a weak spot in its app's voice-call software enabled the installation of spyware in dozens of users' phones by an "advanced cyberactor", which may have been a nation state.

"The issue affects WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348, and WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15", Facebook told Forbes.

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"Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is exclusively operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies", the company told the paper.

"The Israeli MOD has ignored mounting evidence linking NSO Group to attacks on human rights defenders, which is why we are supporting this case".

Researches at Citizen Lab estimate that NSO tools have been used by at least 45 countries - including the US and the United Kingdom - to spy on civilians.

The company said that they believe a number of users have already been targeted.

The Facebook-owned service said only a "select number of users" were targeted. For Android devices, that involves opening the Google Play store, and looking in "My Apps & Games" to see if WhatsApp needs updating or not.

Still, it too urged users to ensure the update WhatsApp on their devices. Or, you can just visit the app store on your phone and update it manually and immediately.

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