Adekunle Ojo was hanging out with some friends on Monday evening with some friends when, all of a sudden, his phone started buzzing. Several people calling to ask him, if he was the responsible for sending messages about investing in a scheme on a WhatsApp group. He was was very surprised and embarrassed because the message did not come from him.
This has been the experience of some Nigerian WhatsApp users in the past few months.
However, it appears the issue is not only peculiar to Nigeria. An Israeli security firm, Check Point Software Technologies Limited, discovered a series of shortcomings in the Facebook-owned instant messaging app.
The company revealed that hackers can manipulate messages sent to a group by altering the identity and messages of the sender.
This is coming after WhatsApp was reportedly hacked by attackers who installed advanced spyware on an unknown number of smartphones. According to reports, the hackers were able to install the surveillance technology by calling targets using WhatsApp’s voice call feature.
Ojo confirmed that his phone number was changed and he was automatically removed from a WhatsApp group he belonged to. The supposed hacker then sent messages to the group about an investment that guarantees the investor receiving double the amount invested within 30 minutes.
To further investigate the hack, a call was put through to the supposed hacker to enquire about the advertised investment. The hacker claimed that “the investment is real and reliable and it’s secured under the Corporate Affairs Commission.”
He then asked the caller to send the desired investment amount to an account number that he provided.
Ojo further said that he wasn’t aware of the hack until he started receiving several calls from some members of the group to clarify if he was responsible for the messages.
Considering recent complaints and reports about WhatsApp being hacked, it appears it is experiencing safety issues similar to Facebook.
In view of the recent safety concerns, here are a few things to do to avoid being scammed or hacked.
Do not use the unsupported version of WhatsApp
Avoid using an unsupported version of WhatsApp. Though the popular GBWhatsApp has been banned by WhatsApp, some users still find a way to install it on their mobile devices.
Authorise the two-way verification process
To do this, click on settings in WhatsApp, select account, then choose two-step verification to enter a 6-digit PIN.
Once this is done, WhatsApp will be safe for use and free from hackers.
For hacked group members
It is advisable to put a call through to the group member whose number has been sending unsolicited messages to the group to clarify if they were hacked.
Remove and re-add the group member
If they were hacked, the admin should remove and re-add the group member. Once this is done, the alleged hacker will be unable to send messages to the group.
WhatsApp has become an integral part of the lives of millions of people but, while using the app, it is a good idea for users to notify friends and relatives about the hack to avoid personal data theft or scams.