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WhatsApp Users Beware: This Stupidly Simple New Hack Puts You At Risk—Here’s What You Do

 

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Whether or not Jeff Bezos was hacked over WhatsApp, and whether or not the culprit was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Facebook-owned messaging platform has been compromised by security issues this year. And now there is another WhatsApp attack doing the rounds. But this one has nothing to do with nation state cyberattacks or the platform’s integrity, and everything to do with our susceptibility to social engineering and our complacency when it comes to securing our devices.

This new social-engineering hack is stupidly simple to execute and just as easy to prevent. There’s a basic security setting in WhatsApp that you have likely not set up, but which you should—it takes less than a minute. As soon as you finish reading this article, please check your app’s settings and make the fix if required.

When it comes to the hacking of WhatsApp or other messaging platforms, it is important to separate out the various types of risks. Last year we saw nation-state attacks infecting targeted users with spyware, we saw the a potential risk from crafted media files sent over the platform, and we saw a backdoor where bad actors could lock targeted individuals out of the messaging app.

All of these issues were fixed by WhatsApp—software patches plugged security gaps and ensured users were kept safe. The latest issue, though, was fixed before it even hit. But that fix requires users to take action, which means it’s almost certain that many if not most of you have not yet done so.

This weekend, a friend in a group chat warned the rest of us not to open a message from her—she had been hacked, she said, and we should not “give away any six-digit numbers.” Attackers, it seems, had gained access to her WhatsApp account and captured the phone numbers of members of the group. They were then able to send WhatsApps to the other group members, telling them they were about to receive an SMS message and could they please send it back to her. Social engineering at its best. Who would question the simple request of a trusted friend?

Behind the scenes, though, the SMS message was a WhatsApp verification code for the account of the person receiving the text. And in sending it back to the “friend,” they were sending it to the attackers. With a fresh WhatsApp install, those attackers could then complete an account take over and progress their scam another turn. This is much simpler than porting the SIM to a new device. The effect, though, is the same. This same scam prompted a raft of police warnings in Singapore last summer.

With the account taken over, the attackers could then message the rest of the group as if from the account holder, as well as any other contacts whose WhatsApp messages were received after the take over. No legacy data is compromised. The target device remains untouched. WhatsApp has simply been ghosted onto an illegitimate device.

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This can easily be prevented. In WhatsApp you can set up a PIN of your own choosing, and even an email address to use if you forget that PIN. This is separate to the six-digit code that WhatsApp will send by SMS to verify a new install. It’s easy to see the verification code as the two-factor authentication. That can be defeated, as recent headlines on SMS security have shown. Another security layer with your own password is materially harder to beat. So even if you send the code to the attackers, they would still not have your own PIN. Clearly, you should not send the SMS code, but it makes absolute sense to set up this additional security layer anyway.

WhatsApp’s “Two-Step Verification” process can be found under the Settings-Account from within the app. it takes less than a minute to set up.

The direct risk is not to you if you’re attacked, but to your contacts. They can expect to receive requests for data or even emergency funds. Again, social engineering at its best. An end-to-end encrypted platform, a message from a trusted friend. We are coded to have our guards down in these circumstances.

If you have been the victim of this scam, you can clearly reactivate your device with a new SMS and transfer everything back. The attackers are banking on it taking time for you to realise what’s happened and they may even send you additional SMS codes to confuse you as you look to repair the situation.

It is surprising how many people have not yet enabled the PIN in WhatsApp—almost everyone I have asked has yet to set it up. If you’re the same, then please take that minute and set it up now. I know you won’t send that verification SMS to a “friend” if asked, but do it just in case.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers—developing advanced surveillance solutions for defence, national security and counter-terrorism. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, as well as breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd@me.com.

Source: WhatsApp Users Beware: This Stupidly Simple New Hack Puts You At Risk—Here’s What You Do

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Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

The number of people who have injured their necks or heads while using using cell phones has spiked over the past two decades, with a sharp increase following the release of the iPhone, research has revealed.

Most people got hurt because they were distracted by their cell phones, and while in the home according, to the study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database on emergency room visits from approximately 100 U.S. hospitals to carry out the study.

Of the 2,501 incidents occurring between January 1998 and December 2017, 37.6 percent involved patients aged between 13 to 29-years-old, with pre-teens most at risk. Of the total, 55 percent were female, 38.8 percent white.

The majority of patients hurt their head, followed by the face, including the eye and nose area, and lastly the neck. Lacerations were the most common injury, followed by contusions or abrasions and internal organ injuries—mostly traumatic brain injuries. For instance, some were hit in the face, or were harmed when batteries exploded. Some suffered concussion.

Head and neck injuries related to phones were relatively rare up until 2007, when rates shot up following the release of the Apple iPhone, followed by a much steeper rise to a peak in 2016, the researchers found.

Based on the 2,501 cases, the team estimated a total of 76,043 such injuries likely occurred across the U.S. between 1998 and 2017. Of those, an estimated 14,150 involved people who were distracted. That included 90 playing Pokémon Go.

A further 7,240 people were driving, 1,022 texting, and 5,080 patients were walking and using a smartphone.

Around 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to the researchers.

Despina Stavrinos, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who did not work on the study told Newsweek she wasn’t surprised by the findings “given how pervasive cell phones are in our everyday lives.”

She said as the numbers were taken from a database on medical settings, the findings could be an underestimate of the problem.

“A significant portion of the injuries were to children and adolescents, suggesting parents play an important role in educating their children on safe phone practices. Policy and behavioral interventions should continue to consider ways to prevent cell phone use in transportation settings,” said Stavrinos.

“Most of the injuries in this study occurred at home; however, a smaller yet significant portion occurred in traffic environments. Distracted walking, bicycling, and driving are common and extremely dangerous activities among youth that increases their risk of injury,” said Stavrinos, who co-authored a paper on that topic.

“Cell phones offer many advantages, but also pose risks if they are not used properly. This is definitely the case when it comes to using phones while driving or walking.”

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Source: Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

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Bending and staring down at our phones for several hours, increases the stress on our neck and spine, leading to neck and back pain. Experts refer to this condition as text neck and it can eventually lead to serious consequences. Also, at night, when we stare at our smartphones, the light emitted from their screens makes our brain think that it is still daytime. So, our brain does not produce the sleep hormone melatonin, causing us to stay awake for long hours and thus, disturbing our circadian rhythm which regulates our every day bodily functions. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. An interesting fact is that smartphone addiction has given rise to a new phobia called Nomophobia, short for no mobile phone phobia. It is basically the fear or anxiety of being without our phone.

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A 50-page e-Book laying down the foundation on how to make money buying and selling cell phones! This e-Book is something you cannot miss. Years of experience laid on to 50-pages. Everything from A to Z on how to start making money with cell phones. All within an unsaturated market involving no start-up costs, storefront, or previous knowledge… just your willingness to learn. Topics include where to buy cell phones, where to sell them, how to maximize profits, the benefits of networking and trading, tips & tricks of the trade, and so much more. Read more

Study of Cellphone Risks Finds ‘Some Evidence’ of Link to Cancer, at Least in Male Rats – William J. Broad

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For decades, health experts have struggled to determine whether or not cellphones can cause cancer. On Thursday, a federal agency released the final results of what experts call the world’s largest and most costly experiment to look into the question. The study originated in the Clinton administration, cost $30 million and involved some 3,000 rodents. The experiment, by the National Toxicology Program, found positive but relatively modest evidence that radio waves from some types of cellphones could raise the risk that male rats develop brain cancer……..

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/health/cellphone-radiation-cancer.html

 

 

 

 

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