WhatsApp has called on users to update to the latest version of the instant messaging app after a report that users could be exposed to having malicious spyware installed on phones, without being notified a Facebook spokesman said on Tuesday May 14th.
"WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices," the spokesman said.
"We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users."
A vulnerability in WhatsApp permitted hackers to insert spyware on phones by ringing up targets using the app's phone call function, even if the user did not pick up the call, the company confirmed. It said the spyware was developed by Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group, The Financial Times reported.
Asked about the report, NSO said its technology is licensed to authorised government agencies "for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror," and that it does not operate the system itself.
"We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system. Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies," the company said.
"NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization, including this individual."
Political dissidents, human rights activists, opposition politicians and journalists in 45 countries may have been targeted, said Ahmed Zidan from the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, according to the BBC.