WhatsApp group chats can easily be infiltrated, find researchers

WhatsApp group chats can easily be infiltrated, find researchers

The team of cryptographers at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, found a set of security weaknesses in the messaging app that together allow anyone controlling the WhatsApp server to insert other parties into a private group thread without getting permission from the administrator who controls the group.

According to the research, Signal and WhatsApp fail to properly authenticate who is adding a new member to the group and it is possible for an unauthorised person, who is not even a member of the group, to add someone to the group chat.

The researchers detailed the findings at the Real World Crypto security conference in Zurich on Wednesday, according to Wired.

Once the unidentified person has been injected into the group, the other members would receive a message informing them that a new member has been added, seemingly at the behest of the group admin. They also point out that the lack of any authentication mechanism to deal with the invitation for new members also worsens the security.

"When an administrator wishes to add a member to a group, it sends a message to the server identifying the group and the member to add". WhatsApp is a widely used messenger and is available in more than 60 different languages which include 10 Indian languages.

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As per the report, any hacker can gain access to a group chat on WhatsApp, despite end-to-end encryption. "He can cache all the message and then decide which get sent to whom and which not", Mr Rosler said.

A flaw in popular encrypted chat programs WhatsApp, Threema and Signal theoretically allows nearly anyone to control important servers, bypass encryption and add themselves to group chats.

WhatsApp is working on a new group notifications feature where a user will be notified every time they are mentioned by someone.

"We've looked at this issue carefully", the spokesperson added.

"Alex Stamos, the Chief Security Officer of Facebook, in response to the report said on Twitter, "[sic] Read the Wired article today about WhatsApp - scary headline! The privacy and security of our users is incredibly important to WhatsApp. "But there is no secret way into WhatsApp groups chats". They should utilize the Message Admin catch to post a message or offer media to the gathering. The concern raised here is that in groups with multiple administrators, the user can send out messages to multiple admins, fooling them about who invited the user. "And if not, the value of encryption is very little", researcher Paul Rösler was quoted saying in the report.

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