The makers of WhatsApp are warning users to upgrade the popular messaging app to avoid a spyware attack.
“WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” a WhatsApp statement notes.
According to Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, hackers have targeted a “select number of users through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.” The spyware exploits a security flaw in the calling functionality of its app and is apparently quite serious: The user doesn’t even need to pick up a call in order for hackers to gain access to their phone’s microphone and camera.
The spyware is based on software that was originally developed by the NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm. And there is a growing consensus that the attack is aimed at human rights campaigners. As such, WhatsApp has referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, noting that the attack likely came from a “private company working with governments on surveillance.”
WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion active users, so the potential for abuse is quite high.
The good news? All you need to do is update the app, which will happen automatically. Or, you can just visit the app store on your phone and update it manually and immediately.