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SA link to WhatsApp breach

Publish date: 15 May 2019
Issue Number: 1781
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Category: Security

WhatsApp has been hacked and attackers installed sophisticated spyware on an unknown number of people's smartphones. Legalbrief reports that the Facebook subsidiary said an advanced cyber actor infected an unknown number of people's devices with the malware, which it said it discovered last week. The hackers were able to install the surveillance technology by phoning the target through WhatsApp's call functionality, giving them access to information including location data and private messages. The Independent reports that the security flaw has brought attention to the kinds of risks inherent in messaging apps, and the way those hazards are ever-present, even in the most secure of platforms. WhatsApp has long stressed its commitment to privacy and its founders were clear from the outset that their aim was to keep messages from being read by anyone except those for whom they were intended.

Full report in The Independent

The spyware was developed by Israel's NSO Group, whose Pegasus software is known to have been used against human rights activists. A BusinessLIVE report notes that the firm denied any involvement. A 2018 report titled Hide and Seek published by The Citizen Lab which helped to uncover the recent WhatsApp breach, identified 45 countries — including SA and other African nations – with suspected Pegasus spyware infections. Suspected Pegasus infections were also identified in Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.

Full BusinessLIVE report (subscription needed)