Sunday, 25 August, 2019

WhatsApp, Telegram photos, audio files at risk: What should users do

WhatsApp and Telegram exploit gives hackers access to your private media WhatsApp and Telegram exploit gives hackers access to your private media
Emmett Howard | 17 July, 2019, 00:02

The vulnerability dubbed "Media File Jacking" originates from the point a media message is loaded into the app User interface or when a media message is received via the app.

Image manipulation: Through this, a user may unintentionally land up sending a manipulated image.

WhatsApp and Telegram media files could be exposed and manipulated by malicious actors according to new research by Symantec's Modern OS Security team. It comes as a trade-off between accessibility and privacy on Android.

Consequently, when these files are saved to external storage, other apps with write-to-external storage permission can potentially manipulate these media files. This is something WhatsApp does automatically unless a user opts out in the settings.

Security researchers discovered a Telegram and WhatsApp vulnerability that could enable digital attackers to tamper with media files. For example, they could manipulate an invoice that a vendor sends to their customer.

The sender might just send the photos but the malware could exploit this vulnerability on WhatsApp and Telegram to replace the photo and give the recipient the wrong directions.

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"WhatsApp follows guidelines from Android including: 'You should use external storage for user data that should be accessible to other apps and saved even if the user uninstalls your app, such as captured photos or downloaded files.' We store files in the same manner as other messaging apps (like Viber), email (like Gmail), and file storage apps (like Dropbox)." spokesperson said.

The time taken between receiving a photo and storing it in memory is crucial because it can allow hackers to manipulate those media files without the user's knowledge. This manipulation can also happen befor Whatsapp or Telegram encrypt the file. For WhatsApp users, the company recommends heading over to Settings - Chats - Media Visibility and turning the toggle off. Files saved to internal storage are accessible only by the app itself, meaning other apps can not access them. Symantec explains that its malware detection engines, which power Symantec Endpoint Protection Mobile (SEP Mobile) and Norton Mobile Security, detect apps that exploit the described vulnerability.

The cyber-security company confirmed that it has already alerted Telegram and Facebook/WhatsApp about the Media File Jacking vulnerability. They could also use the concept of channels to essentially broadcast fake news or spoof audio messages. These platforms have long back switched to end-to-end encryption which promises that no middleman can figure out the information being exchanged.

How Do Users Stay Protected?

WhatsApp and Telegram are popular IM apps with a global user base and their popularity is in part for their utmost security with end-to-end encryption.

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