Monday, December 18

Security issues: The WhatsApp story

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As more and more smartphone users are opting for free messaging service and turning down traditional text messaging, apps like WhatsApp, Viber and many more are elbowing it’s traditional counterpart for market share. Tech experts have been raising eyebrows time and again over the breach in privacy that these apps might be making. Heise Security confirmed in September 2012 that hacking WhatsApp was no big deal even for hackers at the most basic level. This has, however, not affected the popularity of WhatsApp even after Dutch and Canadian government recenyly discovered WhatsApp to be bypassing it’s laws.       

WhatsApp leaves no contact unturned

Dutch and Canadian government has found that WhatsApp has left a gaping hole their privacy laws. On downloading this app from Google Play store, users are impelled to upload their entire address book to start using WhatsApp. Even if someone is not a user of WhatsApp, their phone number is uploaded by WhatsApp. This policy of the free messaging service is has breached Dutch and Canadian privacy laws.

WhatsApp for different OSes

WhatsApp Inc., a California-based web developer company, has now introduced WhatsApp at the iTunes store. Despite gaping loopholes in the security, WhatsApp is the third most downloaded paid app on the iTunes store. The app for iOS 6 offers Apple users sn option to manually add contacts to the WhatsApp address book. BlackBerry, Android, Windows and Nokia phones still have to upload their entire address book in order to start using the app. Whatsapp does admit that a problem lies here and says that it will be fixed on other platforms but does not specify a particular time frame.

When in January 2012, the Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada investigated WhatsApp’s security, it found out that the way information was collected from the users went against Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document’s Act.    

WhatsApp’s increasing popularity

WhatsApp has passed the mark of a 100 million downloads in November, 2012. Although WhatsApp for BlackBerry, Android and Windows phones is free the iOS version of the app is for purchase at the iTunes store.

Some other privacy issues that have been resolved

There have been some other privacy issues solutions to which have been provided like messages that had been sent via an unprotected Wi-Fi are at ahigher risk of being intercepted. Even if the messages are sent through mobile carriers, they are initially encrypted and have a high likelihood of being bugged by some spy on WhatsApp but the risk increases if the user is connected to an unprotected Wi-Fi.

Moreover, the password used for the inter-change of messages uses data that suggests what kind of mobile device is being used. A third party may make use of this information on the user’s behalf without their knowledge or consent. The password issue was resolved in the next version of the app.

Author Bio:

Natalia David writes articles about everything and anything in the tech world. Lately her interest has been inclined towards free messaging apps, social media apps and their pros and cons. For details click here. She can be reached @NataliaDavid4.      

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