WhatsApp is a popular messaging app that has become an indispensable part of our lives as a channel of communication. But having your WhatsApp chats hacked is probably everyone’s worst nightmare and you can avoid it by being aware of the methods that can be used to hack WhatsApp chats and taking precautionary measures around it.
1. By Exploiting Vulnerabilities
Now and then, new vulnerabilities come to light that can be misused to hack WhatsApp chats. Some of the popular WhatsApp vulnerabilities that wreaked havoc in the past year are the Pegasus voice call attack and remote code execution via GIF.
The Pegasus Voice Call attack allowed hackers to access a device simply by making a WhatsApp voice call to their target. Even if the target didn’t answer the call, the attack could still work, and the target may not even be aware that malware has been installed on their device.
Whereas the other vulnerability involved malicious GIFs which when viewed by the victim allowed attackers to hijack their WhatsApp chat history. While these vulnerabilities have been patched, there is always a chance that a new one might arise and as long as those unknown vulnerabilities stay in the wild. Hence, there is always a security risk.
Advice: Always keep your WhatsApp updated as the developer team keeps on releasing new patches meant to deal with such vulnerabilities. And if you haven’t updated WhatsApp in a long while, I recommend that you do it right away!
2. WhatsApp Web
WhatsApp Web is a feature that makes the messaging app accessible on a desktop browser. You can send and receive texts, images, videos, and files through it. Your chats, as well as media files, remain fully synchronized between mobile and desktop. This means any action you take on either of the devices is reflected in the other device as well.
However, this feature also poses a security risk. While you have to authorize WhatsApp Web on a PC by scanning the QR code on your mobile WhatsApp app, once the desktop device has been authorized, it continues to give access to your WhatsApp chats via PC.
So if you let someone else access this PC with authorized access to your WhatsApp Web account, that person can open https://web.whatsapp.com/ on the browser, and all your chats would become visible to that person. From there, the person can choose to either export the chats or take screenshots of it, thereby effectively hacking your WhatsApp chat and breaching your privacy.
How To Prevent WhatsApp Web From Being Exploited
Here are several things you can do to keep your chats safe on WhatsApp Web:
- Never activate your WhatsApp Web on a PC that is accessible by other people. If you have to do so in a necessary situation, do not forget to log out of your account. To log out of your WhatsApp web account, just click on the vertical three dots button and select log out, as shown in the image below.
- Alternatively, you can choose not to click on the “Keep Me Signed in” option that appears when you are about to login into WhatsApp web. By doing so, WhatsApp will automatically log you out each time your session ends.
- Whenever your WhatsApp web is active on a device, your mobile app will always notify you of the same in the notification panel of your smartphone. So if you see this message given below, quickly log out of all devices by opening WhatsApp app on the phone> More options > WhatsApp Web > Log out from all devices > LOG OUT.
3. Exporting Chat History To Email
This method is similar to the previous one and requires physical access to your device to hack WhatsApp chats. It takes less than a minute for this method to work and all one needs to do is secretly access your device either by tricking you or taking advantage of the fact that your device was left unlocked.
To export WhatsApp chats, one simply has to open Whatsapp, tap on More Options (top right corner) and select the Export Chat option and send all the chats to an email ID where it can be accessed later on.
Advice: Always keep your device protected via PIN or Fingerprint to avoid anyone from snooping on your chats. If you have to hand over your device to someone, make sure you use an app locker on WhatsApp to keep it safe.
4. Accessing Your Chat Backups
It is to be noted that WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption only over its platform. This means that the moment your chats leave WhatsApp, you lose encryption.
In case you have turned on the Backup Chats option and saving a copy of your conversation either on Google Drive or iCloud, remember that those are unencrypted and can be accessed by others easily if they manage to hack or get access to your Gmail or iCloud account.
Advice: I don’t recommend saving chat backups on the cloud simply because of the security risks involved. Even if you have to do so because you have important conversations to save then I suggest being more careful in keeping your cloud account safe by using strong passwords and not sharing them with anyone.
5. Media File Jacking
WhatsApp keeps your messages encrypted in transit, but once a media file reaches your phone, the same cannot be guaranteed. Media File Jacking is a vulnerability where the attacker takes advantage of the way WhatsApp receives media files like photos or videos and writes those files to a device’s external storage.
Media File Jacking can be done by installing a malicious piece of malware hidden inside a harmless-looking app. This malware can monitor incoming files on WhatsApp. So when a new file arrives, the malware can swap out the real file for a fake file and could be used to scam people or simply monitor their chats.
How To Prevent Media File Jacking On WhatsApp
To prevent Media File Jacking on WhatsApp, go to Settings > Chat Settings > Save to Gallery option and turn it Off. This will prevent your WhatsApp chats from getting hacked.
6. Spoofing Method
By using Spoofing Method, WhatsApp chats can be hacked without physical access to the device and this is what makes it dangerous and difficult to prevent. While it is an elaborate task, it isn’t entirely impossible.
In this method, the attacker has to find the MAC address of the target smartphone. After that, they can make use of Busy Box and Terminal Emulator on their smartphone to change the Wi-Fi MAC Address on their device to the address of the target device.
Next, they install WhatsApp and enter the phone number of the target device. Then they get the verification code on the target device to log in. Once the verification code arrives, they use it to log in to the target’s WhatsApp account and delete the verification code to prevent detection by the victim.
However, one red flag could be that WhatsApp on the victim’s device would log out when the hacker signs in. But unfortunately, the damage might be done by then.
7. Using Third-Party Spyware
There are several cell monitoring apps like EvaSpy or Spyzie available that have been specifically made to monitor chats on WhatsApp and other messaging apps. For this method to work, someone has to install this app on your phone by accessing it physically and grant access to surveil your chats. Some of these spy apps offer extra features like listening to live surroundings, screen recording, keylogging, camera control, screenshots, and recording chats.
One can even take this to a higher level and opt for Spyware that hacks WhatsApp chats remotely. Some of the known names are POCWAPP and WSP 3.0 – WhatsApp Scan Pro. Now, these apps are paid and are available on Dark Net so it’s not something that is used frequently, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that such tools are available that can breach your privacy.
Advice: To avoid falling victim to spyware apps, do not install apps from unverified sources and keep an eye on the kind of apps that are installed on your phone. If you see any app that you haven’t installed yourself or observe any fishy behavior on it, I recommend uninstalling them immediately.
These are some ways your WhatsApp chats can be hacked. I hope this will also help you avoid falling victim to any of these methods. Please go through the steps mentioned here to increase your security. Whatsapp is a very powerful and sensitive App and hackers would stop at nothing to invade your privacy on it.
If you have anything else to add or some other query, please feel free to reach out to us via comments and mail. Remember to stay safe online as much as you can.