Technology

WhatsApp Group chats are not secure, a new report has revealed

WhatsApp Group chats are not secure, a new report has revealed

The server can easily spoof any new member to the group without asking for permission from the group administrator. "And if not, the value of encryption is very little".

Staff and governments can legally demand access to the servers and top level hackers can control WhatsApps servers. But if a server is indeed compromised, it's not good news. Prior messages can not be read by the new, uninvited member. They also point out that the lack of any authentication mechanism to deal with the invitation for new members also worsens the security.

And once that new person is added, the phone of each member of that chat group automatically shares secret keys with that person, giving them full access to all future messages, but not past ones. 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. Matthew Green, a professor of cryptography at John Hopkins University, told Wired, "It's just a total screwup". "It could even prevent any administrator's attempt to remove the eavesdropper from the group if discovered", Rösler said.

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".

Open Whisper Systems, the creators of Signal, told Wired that they are now redesigning how Signal handles group messaging, but did not share any more than that.

Well, what this feature does is whenever someone mentions you in a group chat, you are notified about it.

While this feature is still in beta, it will no doubt be a boon for users who are a part of large messaging groups.

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Now, it's important to note the limits of this security flaw: Whoever was exploiting it would have to be in control of the messaging app's servers. It is expected that both these companies will soon fix this flaw.

Managing a WhatsApp group is going to be easier now. The big draw to the app for many is that it has an encrypted group chat feature, so you don't need to worry that someone is listening in on what you are saying.

For some of WhatsApp's users, the stakes of the app's security could be high. The common thing here is that they all use the Signal protocol, made by Whisper Systems.

If you've ever been in a WhatsApp group chat before, then you know that there will always be one user who is the admin.

WhatsApp has also noted that it has consistently pushed back on government requests to break encryption. Signal representatives have not yet responded to a request for comment.

This can apparently be done even without the permission of the administrator who controls access to that conversation. Typical group chats are managed by one person who is identified as the administrator of the chat. This feature lets admins remove the admin status from other admins. WhatsApp has yet to take their advice.


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