WhatsApp was hacked, and attackers installed sophisticated spyware on an unknown number of people’s smartphones. Facebook’s WhatsApp Hacked And 1.5 Billion Users Affected
- Whatsapp Was Hacked, And Attackers Installed Spyware On An Unknown Number Of People’s Smartphones.
- Bad Actors Installed The Surveillance Technology By Calling The Target Through Whatsapp, According To The Financial Times, Which First Spotted The Issue.
- The Ft Reported That The Spyware Was Developed By Israel’s Nso Group.
- Whatsapp Is Urging Users To Update The App And Said It Was Targeted By “An Advanced Cyber Actor.”
- Here’s How To Make Sure Your Phone Is Protected.
The Facebook subsidiary, which has 1.5 billion users, said it discovered in early May that “an advanced cyber actor” infected an unknown number of devices with the malware.
The Financial Times, which first reported on the issue on Monday, said bad actors exploited a vulnerability to install the surveillance technology by calling the target through WhatsApp, giving them access to information including location data and private messages. Even if the target didn’t pick up, the malware was able to infect the phone.
The FT reported that the spyware was developed by Israel’s NSO Group, whose Pegasus software is known to have targeted human-rights activists. In a statement to the FT, the firm denied any involvement in the WhatsApp hack.
“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement to the FT. Facebook’s WhatsApp Hacked And
“We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”
In a statement sent to Business Insider, a spokesman added: “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. We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”
A notice on Facebook said the issue affected Android phones, iPhones, and Windows phones. An update to resolve the issue was released on Monday, and users are being urged to update regardless of whether they have had any suspicious call activity.
Citing a source, the FT reported that the US Department of Justice was notified about the hack last week.
WhatsApp Banks On Business Messaging Over Ads For Revenue
Facebook Inc. makes almost all of its money through advertising. But it’s trying a different approach with its WhatsApp unit.
The world’s most popular messaging service is pushing more aggressively into customer service features, including a pay-to-message option for businesses, and says it’s focusing on enterprise tools, not advertising. WhatsApp paused plans for targeted advertising late last year, surprising those who thought it would follow in line with its parent company.
“Our focus has been on the business messaging products,” says Matt Idema, WhatsApp’s chief operating officer. He said WhatsApp still envisions ads inside Status, a feature on the app similar to Facebook’s Stories, at some point.
WhatsApp announced an update Thursday aimed at businesses that use its API, the software interface that lets companies manage message threads with their customers outside of the app, like through a third-party dashboard. WhatsApp currently charges some businesses a small fee – a few cents per message – to send users things like receipts and confirmation reminders via the app instead of email.
Now WhatsApp will offer more API features, including free storage to host a business’s messages, in hopes that more of them will sign up for the API. Idema says 175 million of WhatsApp’s 2 billion-plus users interact with a business on the app every day, a sign that WhatsApp is focused on a function people care about. Tens of thousands of businesses use the API, Idema said, though Facebook doesn’t disclose WhatsApp’s revenue.
Part of WhatsApp’s appeal has been its high level of encryption, which means messages are never typically stored on Facebook servers or read by the company. By offering to store a businesses messages if they ask, WhatsApp is also committing to not use them to bolster ad targeting, a spokesman says.
Facebook has been working for years to figure out a way to turn its incredibly popular messaging apps into a remunerative business. The company pushed automated messaging bots aggressively a few years back on Messenger, its other standalone chat app, but that use case never took off. It also puts advertising inside of Messenger, though analyst’s don’t consider it to be a significant part of Facebook’s revenue.
The new plan is a combination of commerce and customer service. Charging businesses to send messages through the API is the only way WhatsApp makes money today. But Facebook has invested in a number of international companies, including Jio Platforms Ltd. in India, to secure partners for WhatsApp as it builds commerce and business features in those markets.
In India, for example, many small business owners use WhatsApp in lieu of a website, relying on the service to interact with customers and display product catalogs.
WhatsApp is trying to expand that functionality, too. Retailers can now promote a Facebook Shop on WhatsApp, a product catalog that works across all of the company’s apps, including Instagram. Idema sees Shops as a graduation of sorts from WhatsApp’s existing catalogs feature, saying it will let retailers manage a digital storefront from all Facebook’s apps instead of just on WhatsApp.
The next phase of WhatsApp’s plan will also include payments, enabling customers to buy products directly within the app. Those plans have hit regulatory snags in a number of countries, including India and Brazil, WhatsApp’s largest markets, adding to the complexity around making money through private messaging.
Why WhatsApp’s New Privacy Rules Sparked An Exodus
1. What Does The Policy Say?
WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there. Much of the policy, which is about monetizing WhatsApp, is broadly in line with what came before, but it now states clearly that “WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate” and market services. The option to share data with Facebook has existed for years, but it was just that: optional. From Feb. 8 it becomes mandatory.
2. Can Facebook Read My WhatsApp Now?
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) January 11, 2021
3. Why Does Facebook Want The Data?
It says it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenue Facebook generated in its third quarter of 2020 came from ads, and there are none in WhatsApp. The company wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also knowing their usage habits on WhatsApp, and let businesses take payments in WhatsApp for items that, for instance, were clicked on in Instagram ads.
4. What’s The Fallout?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media office and his country’s defense ministry said they’re dropping WhatsApp. Technology billionaire Elon Musk endorsed rival app Signal to his 42 million Twitter Inc. followers. The registration service for Signal crashed after an influx of new users overwhelmed its servers. On Jan 10., it tweeted: “We continue to shatter traffic records and add capacity as more and more people come to terms with how much they dislike Facebook’s new terms.”
5. Is The Policy The Same Globally?
No. There’s a difference in the text for Europe compared with the rest of the world. In the U.S., for instance, WhatsApp explicitly says it wants to be able to let users start connecting their Facebook Pay account “to pay for things on WhatsApp,” and let them chat with friends on other Facebook products, such as Portal, “by connecting your WhatsApp account.” This text does not appear in the version applicable to Europe.
6. Why Is Europe Being Treated Differently?
European data protection authorities, which under the European Union’s strict privacy laws are empowered to fine companies as much as 4% of global annual revenue if they breach the bloc’s rules, in 2016 had expressed “serious concerns” about the sharing of WhatsApp user data. EU antitrust authorities in 2017 fined Facebook 110 million euros ($134 million) for misleading regulators during a 2014 review of the WhatsApp takeover but stopped short of overturning the merger approval. Facebook had told EU regulators during the review it technically wasn’t possible to combine WhatsApp data with its other services.
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