WhatsApp update 2019: How to stop hackers reading your messages after messaging app flaw

Amelia Heathman
BENCE BOROS / Unsplash

Messaging app WhatsApp has had a tricky year when it comes to security issues. First, there was the fake “WhatsApp Gold” update doing the rounds, then there was the spyware issue, and now it seems there is a another hacking attempt on the app.

A few days ago, WhatsApp posted a security advisory message on Facebook following the discovery of a security flaw which would allow hackers to access someone’s messages by sending a malicious video file. The Facebook-owned app didn’t reveal whether you needed to physically open the video in order to be affected.

The flaw affected WhatsApp on Android phones, iPhones, and Windows Phones too.

The company has issued a fix, however, and you need to ensure you are using the most recent version of WhatsApp in order to be protected. Here’s how to do it.

How to update WhatsApp

  1. Before updating WhatsApp, make sure you back up any chats or images first. Go to Settings in WhatsApp, and Chats, before selecting chat back up.
  2. Now you’re ready to update your phone. Visit the App Store on iPhone or Google Play Store on Android and search for WhatsApp.
  3. If you’re already using the most up to date version, you won’t need to do anything. However, if the app tells you to update then you should do it straight away.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Standard: "WhatsApp is constantly working to improve the security of our service. We make public reports on potential issues we have fixed consistent with industry best practices. In this instance, there is no reason to believe users were impacted."

For the future, if you don’t have automatic updates turned on for apps, it makes sense to do this now. Often security issues can happen without a company declaring them, they will often release a patch straight away and many people are none the wiser.

Speaking about the WhatsApp flaw, Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, said: “Updating apps on your phone is absolutely essential to help keep any new vulnerabilities patched. When developers update an app, they may not even mention the real reason for the change - but the golden rule is: if there is a newer version, you should update your app.

“Malicious actors are constantly thinking of ways to bypass security and to create new methods to break in and cause mayhem, so it is a constant battle for the developers to keep fighting back. The only way this can work is if users allow such updates on their devices at the earliest opportunity,” he added.

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