While WhatsApp is the go-to and convenient messaging platform for all of us, it is still prone to a lot of bugs that can make our usage inconvenient. Adding to the list of already exisiting flaws, the newly-discovered one allowed cybercriminals to get unauthorized access to a user’s media by sending GIFs.
The New WhatsApp Flaw
The new WhatsApp vulnerability was discovered by a security researcher going by the name Awakened. Before I get into explaining what the bug is all about, you should note that you need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp (2.19.244), if you haven’t already.
As detailed in a blog post on GitHub, Awakened has suggested that the glitch is a double-free vulnerability. It was mainly present in WhatsApp’s message preview feature, which provides users with a glimpse of the messages such as texts, images, videos, or GIFs received.
For those who don’t know, a double-free vulnerability is the issue of memory corruption that can lead to app crashes. It can turn into a route for hackers to access a device by surpassing the security and privacy shields of a smartphone.
The WhatsApp flaw worked on WhatsApp version 2.19.230 for Android users using Android 8.1 and 9.0. However, it didn’t work on Android 8.0 and below.
How Does The Flaw Work?
It is suggested that the vulnerability worked using a simple process wherein a hacker would send the malicious GIF to a user. Once the user opens up their gallery after receiving it, the vulnerability would automatically hit the device.
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Additionally, it is suggested that if the attacker is in the victim’s contact list, the malicious GIF will download on its own to the device.
Following the discovery, the researcher contacted Facebook, and the flaw got patched.
However, in a statement to The Next Web, WhatsApp has suggested that it doesn’t believe if the flaw affected users. A WhatsApp spokesperson said, “It was reported and quickly addressed last month. We have no reason to believe this affected any users though of course, we are always working to provide the latest security features to our users.“
Replying to WhatsApp’s ridicule, Awakened updated the blog post and added a demo to showcase the WhatsApp exploit.
Previous WhatsApp Glitches
As I previously said, WhatsApp has had various vulnerabilities attached to it. The recent one was the manipulation of WhatsApp messages as suggested by CheckPoint Research. Another discovery was that WhatsApp was vulnerable to media file jacking, and many more have occurred in the past.