WhatsApp was hacked and attackers installed spyware on people’s phones

WhatsApp is urging users to update their apps after the messaging service was hacked.

The Facebook subsidiary, which has 1.5 billion users, said “an advanced cyber actor” infected an unknown number of people’s devices with the malware, which it said it discovered in early May. The perpetrators remotely hacked the messaging platform by installing a surveillance software onto phones and other devices using a ‘major vulnerability’ or ‘weakness’ in the system.

The app which is owned by Facebook said the hack targeted a “select number of users”. The hackers were able to install the surveillance software by ringing the device.

According to a report by The Financial Times, the perpetrators were able to install the surveillance technology by phoning the target through WhatsApp’s call functionality.

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement to the FT.

“We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”

Who is responsible?

The Financial Times said the spyware was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity and intelligence company.

NSO Group has a software called Pegasus which can collect data from a target device, such as a smartphone. The company has sold the software to governments around the world.

The human rights group Amnesty International wants to stop the company from operating.

The company told the paper: “Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

What has WhatsApp done?

WhatsApp has around 1.5 billion users around the world. It released a software update to improve security on Monday.

It has also told human rights groups, selected security vendors and the US Department of Justice about the attack earlier this month.

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