WhatsApp bug could affect millions of users


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SOFTWARE RISK: WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in February 2014, made its web service available earlier this year

SOFTWARE RISK: WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in February 2014, made its web service available earlier this year

A bug in the popular messaging service WhatsApp put up to 200 million users at risk. The WhatsApp web app is a mirror version of its mobile app, enabling all messages, images and other content received on a smartphone to be accessed from a web browser .

Security firm Check Point has warned that the flaw allows hackers to distribute malware, including ransomware, which demands victims pay a fee to regain access to their files.

The vulnerability affects only the web-based version of the service.

WhatsApp was alerted to the problem in August and immediately issued a patch.

Check Point urged users to update their WhatsApp software immediately to take advantage of the fix.

There are currently over 200 million active users of the web app, according to statistics released by the firm this year. This compares to 900 million users of the smartphone app.

According to Check Point, the vulnerability was caused by the way the service handles contacts sent in the vCard (virtual card) format.

All a hacker needed to do to send a virtual business card that looked legitimate was know their target's mobile number.

Once opened the vCard could distribute malicious codes.

One expert said it was relatively easy for hackers to get hold of mobile numbers that have been disclosed via other breaches.

"Bearing in mind that WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app, the chances of you opening a vCard sent to you is quite high," commented Mark James, a specialist at security firm ESET.

"Once opened it could attempt to download and infect your system with ransomware."

Check Point alerted WhatsApp about the problem on 21st August and a week later it issued a fix.

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