WhatsApp Group Chats Can Be Easily Hacked, Even With End-to-End Encryption


New people added to a particular WhatsApp group without the administrator's permission will be able to read new messages posted by members of the group, thereby compromising the confidentiality and privacy that members belonging to a private WhatsApp group enjoy. This is an obvious security concern as all the messages sent after the insertion of the new entity can be intercepted.

The report explains this bug in WhatsApp.

New additions to the group chat would be notified to all members of the chat just like normal. The server then checks that the user is authorized to administer that group, and (if so), it sends a message to every member of the group indicating that they should add that user. If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against. The flaw means that anyone in control of a WhatsApp server could, in theory, insert people into a conversation - either with the aim of simply eavesdropping, or diverting the conversation.

Signal handles group management a bit differently.

However, Facebook which owns WhatsApp has downplayed the news by assuring that only authorised personnel are allowed to access WhatsApp servers.

That's good news, because getting direct access to these servers would be extremely hard.

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It's impossible for someone to get into your group without you knowing. "The main exception to this is former group members, who already know the group ID - and can now add themselves back to the group with impunity". One example attack posited that former members of groups could record the group ID and use that for future attacks.

In Threema, only the creator of a group is the administrator, each group has a unique ID, and all group messages contain this ID. This will be possible without needing the group administrator's permission, according to the researchers.

"In contrast, Telegram does no encryption at all for group messages, even though it advertises itself as an encrypted messenger, and even though Telegram users think that group chats are somehow secure".

"We haven't entirely achieved this yet, thanks to things like key servers".

The researchers have disclosed their findings to the three companies developing the messengers last summer, and Threema has already pushed out a fix. After all, admins can always tell the others through a new group or inform them through personal messages.

"WhatsApp has looked at the report carefully - following the researcher's plan would necessitate a change to the way WhatsApp provides a popular feature called group invite links - which are used millions of times per day", he said in one of the tweets. If the administrator is aware of the person joining, he could warn users and kick out the malicious member.

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