Messaging apps are a common form of digital communication these days, with Facebook’s WhatsApp being one of the most popular options out there. The communication platform boasts over 1.5 billion users – who now need to immediately update the app due to a new security threat. In fact, WhatsApp just announced a recently discovered security vulnerability that exposes both iOS and Android devices to malicious spyware.
So, how does this cyberthreat work, exactly? Leveraging the new WhatsApp bug, hackers first begin the scheme by calling an innocent user via the app. Regardless of whether the user picks up or not, the attacker can use that phone call to infect the device with malicious spyware. From there, crooks can potentially snoop around the user’s device, likely without the victim’s knowledge.
Fortunately, WhatsApp has already issued a patch that solves for the problem – which means users will fix the bug if they update their app immediately. But that doesn’t mean users shouldn’t still keep security top of mind now and in the future when it comes to messaging apps and the crucial data they contain. With that said, here are a few security steps to follow:
- Flip on automatic updates. No matter the type of application or platform, it’s always crucial to keep your software up-to-date, as fixes for vulnerabilities are usually included in each new version. Turning on automatic updates will ensure that you are always equipped with the latest security patches.
- Be selective about what information you share. When chatting with fellow users on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, it’s important you’re always careful of sharing personal data. Never exchange financial information or crucial personal details over the app, as they can possibly be stolen in the chance your device does become compromised with spyware or other malware.
- Protect your mobile phones from spyware. To help prevent your device from becoming compromised by malicious software, such as this WhatsApp spyware, be sure to add an extra layer of security to it by leveraging a mobile security solution. With McAfee Mobile Security being available for both iOS and Android, devices of all types will remain protected from cyberthreats.
Is your family feeling more vulnerable online lately? If so, you aren’t alone. The recent WhatsApp bug and social media breaches recently have app users thinking twice about security.
Hackers behind the recent WhatsApp malware attack, it’s reported, could record conversations, steal private messages, grab photos and location data, and turn on a device’s camera and microphone. (Is anyone else feeling like you just got caught in the middle an episode of Homeland?)
There’s not much you and your family can do about an attack like this except to stay on top of the news, be sure to share knowledge and react promptly, and discuss device security in your home as much as possible.
How much does your family love its apps? Here’s some insight:
- Facebook Messenger 3.408 billion downloads
- WhatsApp 2.979 billion downloads
- Instagram 1.843 billion downloads
- Skype 1.039 billion downloads
- Twitter 833.858 million downloads
- Candy Crush 805.826 million downloads
- Snapchat 782.837 million downloads
So, should you require your family to delete its favorite apps? Not even. A certain degree of vulnerability comes with the territory of a digital culture.
However, what you can and should do to ease that sense of vulnerability is to adopt proactive safety habits — and teach your kids — to layer up safeguards wherever possible.
Tips to Help Your Family Avoid Being Hacked
Don’t be complacent. Talk to your kids about digital responsibility and to treat each app like a potential doorway that could expose your family’s data. Take the time to sit down and teach kids how to lock down privacy settings and the importance of keeping device software updated. Counsel them not to accept data breaches as a regular part of digital life and how to fight back against online criminals with a security mindset.
Power up your passwords. Teach your kids to use unique, complex passwords for all of their apps and to use multi-factor authentication when it’s offered.
Auto update all apps. App developers regularly issue updates to fix security vulnerabilities. You can turn on auto updates in your device’s Settings.
Add extra security. If you can add a robust, easy-to-install layer of security to protect your family’s devices, why not? McAfee mobile solutions are available for both iOS and Android and will help safeguard devices from cyber threats.
Avoid suspicious links. Hackers send malicious links through text, messenger, email, pop-ups, or within the context of an ongoing conversation. Teach your kids to be aware of these tricks and not to click suspicious links or download unfamiliar content.
Share responsibly. When you use chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it’s easy to forget that an outsider can access your conversation. Remind your children that nothing is private — even messaging apps that feel as if a conversation is private. Hackers are looking for personal information (birthday, address, hometown, or names of family members and pets) to crack your passwords, steal your identity, or gain access to other accounts.
What to Do If You Get Hacked
If one of your apps is compromised, act quickly to minimize the fallout. If you’ve been hacked, you may notice your device running slowly, a drain on your data, strange apps on your home screen, and evidence of calls, texts or emails you did not send.
Social media accounts. For Facebook and other social accounts, change your password immediately and alert your contacts that your account was compromised.
Review your purchase history. Check to see if there are any new apps or games installed that you didn’t authorize. You may have to cancel the credit card associated with your Google Play or iTunes account.
Revoke app access, delete old apps. Sometimes it’s not a person but a malicious app you may have downloaded that is wreaking havoc on your device. Encourage your kids to go through their apps and delete suspicious ones as well as apps they don’t use.
Bugs and breaches are part of our digital culture, but we don’t have to resign ourselves to being targets. By sharing knowledge and teaching kids to put on a security mindset, together, you can stay one step ahead of a cybercrook’s digital traps.