WhatsApp group chats can be infiltrated without admin permission
WhatsApp group chats can be infiltrated without admin permission
WhatsApp 'bug' raises questions over group message privacy
11 January, 2018, 15:26
Computer researchers have discovered a set of flaws in WhatsApp that could allow uninvited individulals into private group chats. However, doing so leaves traces as this operation is listed in the graphical user interface and the WhatsApp server can thus use the fact that it can stealthily reorder and drop messages in the group.
The researchers detailed the findings at the Real World Crypto security conference in Zurich on Wednesday, according to Wired.
German cryptographers claim that the flaw makes it easy for anyone to infiltrate private group chat without the permission of the group admin. WhatsApp, however, has turned down the claim.
All WhatsApp conversations are end-to-end encrypted, which means no outside party is allowed to snoop on a chat. WhatsApp incidentally relies on the Signal protocol for its end-to-end encryption.
A WhatsApp backdoor that could allow someone to plant moles into group conversations has been revealed by security researchers, raising questions over the security of users' conversations.
Researchers advise messaging services to address the issue by simply adding an authentication mechanism to ensure that the "signed" group management messages come only from the group administrator. "I think it would be better if the server didn't have metadata visibility into group membership, but that's a largely unsolved problem, and it's unrelated to confidentiality of group messages", he added.
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They found that anyone with control over WhatsApp's servers can add people to private group chats, including staff, hackers and governments who legally demand access.
The paper is now available online. However, the researchers noted it would be possible for anyone with access to the server to cover their tracks in a number of ways. According to the paper, investigation into "end-to-end protected group communications" has gained only little attention. We built WhatsApp so group messages can not be sent to a hidden user.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said to the Wired that "no one can secretly add a new member to a group and a notification does go through that a new, unknown member has joined the group".
WhatsApp began end-to-end encryption for conversations two years ago.
After an initial story was published by Wired Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos tweeted that it was not possible to access WhatsApp group chats. "An attacker who compromises the Telegram server can, undetected, recover every message that was sent in the past and receive all messages transmitted in the future without anyone receiving any notification at all". However, this potential gap in security should serve as a reminder for businesses and users to keep a close eye on their encryption services and their cryptographic keys, ' he adds.
For additional security, users can easily verify the security code of other group members. This does not mean that the remaining members of the group won't know that a new one has joined.
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