WhatsApp Security Flaw Lets Hackers Enter Any Group Unnoticed
12 January, 2018, 03:25 | Author: Sherri Guerrero
Moxie Marlinspike from Signal, upon whose open-source security protocol WhatsApp is built upon argued - "That If someone hacks the WhatsAppserver, they can obviously alter the group membership" but if they do add themselves to a group then, "The attacker will not see any past messages to the group; those were e2e encrypted with keys the attacker doesn't have and all group members will see that the attacker has joined". The impostor could also block messages, like questions or requests. That immediately limits the potential of the exploit to employees, sophisticated hackers or governments who can convince the firm to give them access - but the risk is still there, and rather negates the value of WhatsApp's encryption.
As noted cryptographer and Johns Hopkins University professor Matthew Green explained, the vulnerability stems from the fact that the WhatsAppserver plays a significant role in group management, and that group management messages are not end-to-end encrypted or signed. "The confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them", Paul Rosler, one of the Ruhr University researchers quoted.
"Additionally the WhatsAppserver can forward these messages to the members individually such that a subtly chosen combination of messages can help it to cover the traces".
Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos responded to the report on Twitter, saying, "Read the Wired article today about WhatsApp - scary headline!" "Existing members are notified when new people are added to a WhatsApp group". "We built WhatsApp so group messages can not be sent to a hidden user". As a result, any potential flaw that impacts WhatsApp's privacy is cause for concern.
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But Facebook-owned WhatsApp says the problem isn't as bad as the researchers are making out. However, this is a security hole that can not be excused, claims the report. However, with Signal, an impostor would need to control the Signal server, and would need to know the Group ID and the phone number of one member, researchers said in the paper. This allows the server controller to add a new group person without the group admin's knowledge.
That seems to be enough for them at the moment, especially because a fix for the flaw could end up breaking the convenient "group invite link" feature.
German cryptographers claim that the flaw makes it easy for anyone to infiltrate private group chat without the permission of the group admin. WhatsApp, however, has turned down the claim.
The goal of having an end-to-end encryption is to stop trusting the intermediate servers in such a way that even the company or the server that transmits the data can decrypt the messages or abuse the centralized position.
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