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Vulnerability in WhatsApp Can Lead to Information Theft of Millions of Users

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Check Point reported a security vulnerability present in the instant messaging application, WhatsApp. If successfully exploited, more than 2 billion users would have the security of their data compromised, with attackers being able to access sensitive information present in WhatsApp memory.

Check Point immediately communicated its findings to those responsible for the application that resolved the problem, releasing a security patch.

Image filters

The vulnerability was found in the functionality that allows adding filters to images. In this process, the pixels of the original image are modified to obtain another visual effect, such as blurring or sharpening. During their investigation, Check Point Research found that switching multiple filters when editing GIF files caused WhatsApp to crash. One of the crashes, indicates CPR, was identified as a memory corruption effect.

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The vulnerability was immediately reported to WhatsApp, which described it as a problem outside of read and write limits. Successful exploitation of the vulnerability would require the attacker to apply specific image filters to specially crafted images, then allowing the resulting image to be sent.

It is estimated that more than 55 billion messages are sent daily via WhatsApp, with 4.5 billion photos and one billion videos shared per day. In Portugal, according to Data Reportal, 61% of internet users have WhatsApp.

Check Point Research shared its findings with WhatsApp on November 10, 2020. The application’s developers verified and recognized the security weakness, for which they issued a patch in version 2.21.2.13, highlighting the CVE-2020-vulnerability 1910 in the February Security Advisory update.

With over 2 billion active users, WhatsApp is indeed an attractive target for attackers. As soon as we discovered the security vulnerability, we immediately reported our findings to WhatsApp which was cooperative in resolving the issue. The result of our collective efforts is a safer WhatsApp for users around the world.” affirms Oded Vanunu, Head of Products Vulnerabilities Research at Check Point.

The official statement from WhatsApp managers:

“We regularly work with security experts who help improve the many ways in which WhatsApp protects people’s messages, and we appreciate the work Check Point does to investigate every corner of our app. People should have no doubt that end-to-end encryption continues to work as intended, and that your messages remain safe and secure. This report involves the multiple steps the user would have to take and we have no reason to believe that users could be impacted by this bug. That said, even the most complex scenarios identified by experts can help increase users’ security level. As with any technological product, we recommend that users keep their operating systems and applications up to date, download updates as soon as available, report suspicious messages, and contact us if they have any problems with Whatsapp.”

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