Cybersecurity firm Check Point claims WhatsApp can be hacked and manipulated
Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point has claimed that WhatsApp can be hacked, allowing an attacker to intercept and manipulate messages sent by those in a group or private conversation, a statement that the messaging platform has strongly denied.
Check Point, in a blog post underlining the vulnerability, said it had already informed WhatsApp of its findings.
When contacted, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We carefully reviewed this issue a year ago and it is false to suggest there is a vulnerability with the security we provide on WhatsApp".
"The scenario described here is merely the mobile equivalent of altering replies in an email thread to make it look like something a person didn't write. We need to be mindful that addressing concerns raised by these researchers could make WhatsApp less private - such as storing information about the origin of messages," the spokesperson said.
In its blog post, Check Point claimed that its "researchers have discovered a vulnerability in WhatsApp that allows a threat actor to intercept and manipulate messages sent by those in a group or private conversation".
It added that by doing so, the "attackers can put themselves in a position of immense power to not only steer potential evidence in their favour, but also create and spread misinformation".
The fake news problem
WhatsApp, which has about 400 million users in India, has drawn flak for abuse of its platform for spread of fake messages and misinformation.
Last year, fake news circulated on WhatsApp incited mob fury that led to several instances of lynching across India.
The IT ministry had said that digital platforms could not escape their responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it would treat the messaging platform as an "abettor" of rumour propagation and legal consequences would follow.
WhatsApp, on its part, has undertaken campaigns in newspapers, television, and radio to provide users with easy tips to spot fake news.
The Indian government has been insisting on WhatsApp developing a mechanism to trace origin of messages in cases where the platform is misused by terrorists and "rogue" elements.
However, the Facebook-owned company has so far, resisted any move that will undermine end-to-end encryption and affect privacy protection for users.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)