San Francisco, May 14: WhatsApp is encouraging users to update to the latest version of the app after discovering a vulnerability that allowed spyware to be injected into a user’s phone through the app’s phone call function.
The app discovered a vulnerability that allowed attackers to install malicious code on iPhones and Android phones by ringing up a target device.
The code could be transmitted even if users did not answer their phones and a log of the call often disappeared, according to reports.
WhatsApp claims to have 1.5 billion users around the world and urged users to upgrade their app after it released a software update yesterday.
The company, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack bore a resemblance to spyware developed for intelligence agencies.
According to the Financial Times, who first reported the story, the spyware was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity and intelligence company.
It is believed Israeli firm NSO is behind the technology, as researchers found a similar digital footprint to other tools known to have originated from the company.
There are concerns the software was used in attempts to access the phones of human rights campaigners, including a UK-based lawyer.
The human rights lawyer, who requested anonymity, has been involved in lawsuits against the NSO Group and said he grew suspicious after receiving several mysterious phone calls originating from Sweden.
These lawsuits include allegations against NSO – whose technology is believed to have been used to hack their phone – on behalf of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi citizen currently living in exile in Canada who was mentored by murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Other alleged victims of include a citizen of Qatar and Mexican journalists and activists.
It is thought the list of who may have been exposed during this hack could be much longer. (Agencies)