WhatsApp boasts new security to stop scammers and malware

14 Apr 2023

Image: © DenPhoto/Stock.adobe.com

As cyberattackers gain new tools, WhatsApp is getting new security features to try to prevent hackers from taking over devices.

WhatsApp is rolling out new features in the coming months to protect users from unauthorised access and cyberattacks.

One of these new features involves protecting accounts when they’re used on a new device. When this activity is detected, the old device will be asked to verify that it’s the user, to prevent unauthorised access to an account.

Another update is coming to WhatsApp’s Verification feature, which is designed to make sure users are speaking to the intended recipient and that the chat is secure.

This feature is getting a boost with “key transparency”, which will let users automatically verify that they have a secure connection.

“What it means for you is that when you click on the Encryption tab, you’ll be able to verify right away that your personal conversation is secured,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

In a more detailed post, parent company Meta explained that this cryptographic security feature will help show users that their messages are end-to-end encrypted in “a transparent manner available to all”.

In the spirit of transparency, Meta said it has published an open-source library called Auditable Key Directory, which lets anyone verify “proofs of the directory’s correctness”.

In the battle against malware, WhatsApp is receiving a new Device Verification feature to prevent attackers from gaining control of devices or sending messages without a user’s permission.

“Mobile device malware is one of the biggest threats to people’s privacy and security today because it can take advantage of your phone without your permission and use your WhatsApp to send unwanted messages,” WhatsApp said.

Meta said the new feature introduces three parameters: a security token, an authentication challenge and a measure to identify if a client is connecting to retrieve a message from WhatsApp’s server.

“These three parameters help prevent malware from stealing the authentication key and connecting to WhatsApp server from outside the user’s device,” Meta said.

There continues to be various high-profile cyberattacks worldwide, with the motor industry recently being targeted. Hyundai, Ferrari and Uber suffered data breaches in recent weeks.

A recent investigation also highlighted the risks that advanced malware poses, with evidence that an Israel-based spyware has been used against individuals in at least 10 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic