Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

UAE telecoms authority urges users to update WhatsApp

The warning comes following revelations an Israeli firm had installed surveillance software on some users' phones

Potentially Harmful Apps, or PHAs, are rife in the Android ecosystem. AFP
Potentially Harmful Apps, or PHAs, are rife in the Android ecosystem. AFP

WhatsApp users should update their app immediately to avoid being hacked, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has said.

The warning came after it emerged an Israeli firm had developed surveillance software which could be installed on mobiles and other devices via a phone call.

The malware is understood to be so advanced that those targeted by hackers did not even need to answer the WhatsApp call to fall victim.

WhatsApp released a patch for the vulnerability for customers on Monday, urging all of its 1.5 billion users to download the fix immediately.

“Due to detecting a vulnerability in [the] WhatsApp mobile application in the beginning of May 2019 - which put your smart device at risk of penetration - we advise you to update the application to its latest version from the play Store or Apple Store,” the TRA said in a tweet.

📍 Very important

TRA advises you to update your Whatsapp application to avoid hacking pic.twitter.com/3aRTvWEyn7

— هيئة تنظيم الاتصالات (@TheUAETRA) May 14, 2019

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, promotes itself as a "secure" communications app.

Its messages are end-to-end encrypted which should ensure they can only be read on the sender or recipient's device.

However, the surveillance software reported to have been developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, would have let an attacker read the messages on the target's device.

Only a select number of users are thought to have been singled out by an “advanced cyber actor,” according to Bloomberg.

But the TRA still urged users to update the app just in case they had been targeted. WhatsApp calls are blocked in the UAE.

On Tuesday, a statement from WhatsApp said: “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices.”

Updated: May 16, 2019 08:36 AM

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