German security researchers say WhatsApp group chats not secure

Creepy hackers could secretly eavesdrop on your private WhatsApp group chats, experts claim

The only people who can get access to WhatsApp servers are staff and governments if they are taking some legal actions.

Now, a group of German cryptographers from Ruhr University shared its findings during the Real World Crypto security conference, which was held in Switzerland.

A security researcher at Signal, which licenses its rules of conduct to WhatsApp, said that the current design of he app is fair and that the report only sends a message to other people not to "build security into your products, because that makes you a target for researchers, even if you make the right decisions".

Currently, in order to remove an administrator, his fellow his needed to remove him from the group before adding him back as a regular member.

Here's how the researchers explained the bug on WhatsApp. Entering the group, however, leaves traces, since this operation is listed in the graphical user interface.

"If someone hacks the WhatsApp server, they can obviously alter the group membership".

WhatsApp

"Additionally the WhatsApp server can forward these messages to the members individually such that a subtly chosen combination of messages can help it to cover the traces".

But Facebook-owned WhatsApp says the problem isn't as bad as the researchers are making out.

In a statement to IANS on Thursday, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: "We've looked at this issue carefully". Accordingly, the server can just add a new member to an existing group without any interaction from the administrator.

Researchers reported an alleged security flaw for WhatsApp that supposedly violates privacy. "And if not, the value of encryption is very little", further added Paul Rosler. "Read the Wired article today about WhatsApp - scary headline!"

Researchers found in November that deleted messages were actually still on the device, and could easily be accessed through the app's Settings. "If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, the means adding of new members should be protected against". Once an attacker with server control accessed the conversation, he or she could also use it to selectively block any messages in the group, including those that ask questions, or provide warnings about the new entrant. If the administrator is watching closely, he or she could warn the group's intended members about the interloper and the spoofed invitation message. "For example, it would be interesting to analyze the group chat implementations of other Signal-based messaging protocols, such as Google's Allo, Wire, and Facebook Messenger, or even non Signal-based protocols similarly to our investigation of Threema".

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