After gaining millions of users in just a few years and becoming one of the most downloaded applications, WhatsApp has become synonymous with instant messaging. Businesses are using it for marketing and other services whereas people are using it to keep in touch with everyone.
One of the biggest reasons why WhatsApp gained such massive popularity in such a short amount of time is because of its encrypted chats feature, which made the users trust that their conversations will not be divulged out in the public.
Turns out, any app that has anything to do with Facebook can never be trusted. How can we turn a blind eye to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, after all?
Did you know that a simple Google search can reveal private WhatsApp groups and help gain access to its members, contacts, and contents? Also, Facebook has known about this security glitch for quite some time now.
Private WhatsApp Chat Groups On Google
With the help of Google searches, anyone can find and join thousands of WhatsApp groups. According to a report by Vice, Google has been indexing invite links to private WhatsApp groups. Thus, a random person can join and read the content of a private group by just looking it up on Google and discovering the links of the chats.
“Your WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think they are,” tweeted Jordan Wildon, a multimedia journalist for Deutsche Welle, on Friday.
Even by doing a simple search of “chats.whatsapp.com”, which is a component of the URL that forms invites to WhatsApp groups, one will get about 470,000 results. This happens because these groups’ links are shared outside WhatsApp’s private messaging feature.
Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison, said in a tweet, “Search engines like Google & others list pages from the open web. That’s what’s happening here. It’s no different than any case where a site allows URLs to be publicly listed. We do offer tools allowing sites to block content being listed in our results.”
Which Groups Can Be Found?
Reporters from Vice found that some groups available on Goggle did not contain any sensitive content and were not meant for a particular audience. Most of these groups were meant for sharing porn.
However, some groups did cater to a specific audience. For example, the reporters found chats of NGOs accredited by the United Nations. After joining the groups, the reporters could see the participants and their contact numbers.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement to Vice, “Group admins in WhatsApp groups are able to invite any WhatsApp user to join that group by sharing a link that they have generated. Like all content that is shared in searchable, public channels, invite links that are posted publicly on the internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website.”
This isn’t the first time, however, that WhatsApp is under the radar for a security breach. Previously, there was a security bug on the app that allowed hackers to take over phones by simply calling it, regardless of the call being answered.
Given the importance of privacy and data in a time where we are covered under the blanket of the world wide web, the importance of tech companies addressing and fixing security issues cannot be exaggerated. It is high-time that WhatsApp does the same about this issue.
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