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WhatsApp asks users to upgrade app - after report of spyware attack

WhatsApp asks users to upgrade app - after report of spyware attack

In a statement, the company said that the vulnerability in WhatsApp's Voice over IP (VOIP) allowed for remote code to be executed sent to a target phone number.

The FT reported that teams of engineers had worked around the clock in San Francisco and London to close the vulnerability and it began rolling out a fix to its servers on Friday last week and issued a patch for customers on Monday, according to Reuters. The spyware was developed by Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group, according to Financial Times, which first reported the vulnerability in the app.

WhatsApp has neither confirmed nor denied reports NSO is responsible.

"We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users", they added. NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation, including this individual.

Sky News reports that "NSO Group claims its technology, known as Pegasus, is only used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies", but that "human rights organizations have claimed that numerous state agencies it works with are repressive and often target their lawyers and activists". Its primary product, Pegasus, is able to turn on and collect data from a phone's microphone and cameras, and also can extract location logs, emails, and messages.

The company behind this malicious attack is NSO, based in Israel. Even the record of the call will get automatically erased.

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In a statement, WhatsApp did not name the NSO Group, but said the attack was representative of a private company which works with governments to create spyware for mobile devices.

WhatsApp has briefed NGOs to share any useful information, presumably to protect citizens from countries that may have been affected, and it has informed United States law enforcers.

Whatsapp QR code that enables users to use the platform on desktop.

The breach is the latest in a series of issues troubling WhatsApp's parent Facebook, which has faced intense criticism for allowing its users' data to be harvested by research companies and over its slow response to Russian Federation using the platform as a means to spread disinformation during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

But not all users were familiar with how to update the app, leading to a spike in people frantically googling: "How to update WhatsApp?". While it has begun an investigation into the vulnerability, WhatsApp has yet to estimate how many people were affected or targeted. For those using iPhones, open the App Store, select updates, select WhatsApp and then hit Update.