There are hundreds of applications and platforms for communicating with each other over internet and some of these are popular while some are only famous in specific regions. For instance Whatsapp and Facebook are famous worldwide while Wechat, A Chinese social media application is only popular in China. When we talk about Whatsapp, it’s estimated that more than 1 billion people use this platform to send and received more than 50 billion messages on daily basis. In order to understand these numbers, consider the fact that there are not more than 8 billion people on this earth and that includes babies, toddlers, older people and the ones who don’t have cell phone or internet. If you really think about it, it’s not possible for more than 3 billion people to have the facilities to use Whatsapp and 1/3 of that population uses Whatsapp.
An application used by that huge number of people doesn’t make it a safe application. In fact Whatsapp is one of the few social media platforms that are still highly vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Every other day we hear stories of someone claiming to be the victim of Whatsapp hacking and accidently loosing or leaking their private files to the public. Although Whatsapp has taken great measures to ensure that the data of their users is kept private and secure but there are still major functional issues that the platform has which need to be resolved in order to make it a safe place to share private data. Below you will find some of the most common security issues that Whatsapp users have to deal with.
1- Hackers can Manipulate Pictures:
One of the biggest flaws of using a third party application to communicate i.e. Whatsapp is that you develop a habit of taking pictures and selfies and capture videos while you go about your life. These photos are recorded and kept on your smart phone and when you share these media files with your friends and family members via Whatsapp, their smart phone also stores these files. Even if the messages sent from one mobile to the other are encrypted, as soon the other mobile receives the messages, they become decrypted or plain text or picture. Let’s say a hacker is waiting just for the right moment when the receiver’s phone decrypts a message and he can quickly alter or manipulate the pictures or videos or audio files. The receiver will think that there is some delay in the server that the file can’t be downloaded yet but actually it’s the hacker who is holding on to the file and preventing it from downloading.
2- Whatsapp is mostly used for fake news:
This is not a risk with the security of the Whatsapp but we are talking about general security and peace of mind here. Over the past couple of years, it’s observed that if someone wants to spread a fake news or hoax, they would mostly prefer using Whatsapp. For one, it’s really easy to create a group of hundreds of people on Whatsapp and then you can just start sharing content i.e. text, pictures and videos in the group without any limitations. Another reason is that when you see news posted in a famous group, you instantly think that it should be true or why would the admin share it in the group. This is the reason why most of the fake news is considered as true especially in Asian countries where literacy rate is lower and illiterate people usually believe what they see.
3- Smart Phone itself is Vulnerable:
It doesn’t require a qualified or brilliant hacker to hack a Whatsapp account and basically if the account is hacked, the malware or virus has already entered into your smart phone. Your smart phone which is the most important part of your life has all of your secrets, private and personal information and the content that you won’t want to share with anyone else. A hacker no matter how experienced can’t enter a malware into a smart phone unless it is connected to internet via any sort of messenger i.e. Facebook or Whatsapp. Every now and then we see someone’s leaked private photos or videos on internet and they claim they didn’t leak them intentionally but their smart phone was hacked and in most cases, they are right.
4- Malware Penetrating Whatsapp Web Application:
Many people like Whatsapp just because it allows them to use the desktop application where you can read, write and reply to the Whatsapp chats on your desktop computer or laptop. What these people don’t understand is that this is something that can put their entire network at risk. When you want to use Whatsapp on your computer, you are required to open the official application and scan a code from your smart phone. This allows the desktop application to unlock and start sending and receiving messages in your Whatsapp account. What you can’t know is that it’s possible that the Whatsapp web application that you downloaded on your computer might be a scam. There is almost no difference when it comes to a phishing website or application and a genuine application and most people fell for this because they download the fake application.
5- Whatsapp shares its data with Facebook:
There is a reason that Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat are more secure than Whatsapp and it’s simply because these platforms work separately from each other and never share their user’s data with each other. This is not true when we talk about Whatsapp. We all know that Facebook has officially purchased Whatsapp and even if it was anticipated prior the purchase that Facebook might use their users’ data for marketing and advertisement purposes and they were asked to officially declare that they won’t share data between these two platforms, they actually do it secretly. In the beginning, Whatsapp issued a legal agreement which said that the platform would never share their users’ data with Facebook but later it turned out that they are secretly sharing data without the knowledge of the users. Whatsapp officials when declared that they would be sharing their user’s data with Facebook, did state that the users will be given a formal agreement before their data could be shared and even if the data is shared, it would be kept hidden meaning that it will be available on the Facebook and if a hacker somehow breaches the network, he would have full access to the data.
6- Sharing Whatsapp Status puts you at Risk:
In the beginning, you could only write your status in a single line on Whatsapp and this feature was kept for a long period of time until the day when you could share your pictures or videos or animation as Whatsapp status and everyone would be able to see it. This sounds like something interesting and many people enjoy sharing different status on regular basis but what you don’t understand is that this can put the security of your smart phone and the data it contains at greater risk. Someone might argue that you do the same on Instagram or Snapchat and if sharing your stories on Instagram is safe, doing so on Whatsapp should be safe as well. The reality is that Instagram and other similar applications are meant to be public and these were designed with the intention of sharing data and content without the limitation. This way you can see that if someone shares something on Instagram, it’s something they want their followers to see and not something that they want to keep hidden from general public. Whatsapp on the other hand was meant to be an intimate messaging service that could keep conversation of two people hidden from others. With putting a public status, you actually make your information public and even if you can select who will see the status, there is no information if the blocked contacts will be able to see your status or not.
7- Backups are Unencrypted:
This is one of the key points that Whatsapp uses to make its point about user’s security that their messages are end to end encrypted. What this means is that when you use your smart phone to send a picture, video, text or audio file to someone via Whatsapp, the content of the message are immediately encrypted and it can only be understood or decrypted by the receiver’s smart phone. This makes the process a little safer because hackers can’t intercept the messages before they are decrypted. Once the messages are received at the other phone and they are decrypted, it’s a whole different story. Your phone keeps record of these files and conversations as plain text files and even the backups that you create on your smart phone or on Google drive save the conversations and media files as decrypted. This is perhaps the most important and highest ranked risk of using Whatsapp.