It was recently reported that the iPhone of the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Benzos has been hacked with the possible cause linked to a malicious video sent via WhatsApp Messenger. Following the many backlashes on the messaging App, WhatsApp pushed the blame on Apple. Apple in response accused WhatsApp for poor security.
The discussion on this issue has caused Telegram Messenger to claim the upper hand in terms of security pointing certain vulnerabilities in the WhatsApp Messenger and calling it a dangerous app.
Image Source: www.forbes.com
According to an article released by the founder of Telegram Messenger, Pavel Durov, WhatsApp claims absolute security with the end-to-end encryption for messages exchanged. This feature was the sole reason why WhatsApp denied the possibility that Benzos’s phone was hacked through its platform as cited by the spokesperson of the platform. However, Durov claims that end-to-end encryption is not a magical incantation to stop a silver bullet.
According to him, Telegram uncovered a security flaw in the WhatsApp platform soon before Benzos was hacked, something WhatsApp pushed under the carpet. Another set of researchers had earlier published an article on how hackers use malware to hack into the phones of WhatsApp users without any action needed from the target.
Durov stated in his article that WhatsApp Messenger has a backdoor that could be exploited by hackers to access the device of its users. However, the messaging app rejected the claims of vulnerabilities in its backdoor under the statement that there is no evidence of any attacker exploiting the backdoor. Soon after the reply, the Benzos phone hack took place. This has been a serious cause for concern as high ranked government officials may have been targeted by hackers. The article claims that President Donald Trump has asked his officials to change their phones, and the UN has also asked its officials to get rid of WhatsApp Messenger from their phones.
Durov admitted that there are obvious security issues in the Apple phones. However, he believes that the Benzos phone hack is primarily linked to the security issues of the WhatsApp platform for two reasons: One of these reasons is that the security flaw was not present in other messaging apps on the iOS other than WhatsApp Messenger. There are a number of messaging apps on the Apple phones but WhatsApp Messenger is mainly taken advantage of by hackers. He stated emphatically that Benzo’s phone would not have been hacked had he used Telegram Messenger to receive that malicious video that ended up compromising his phone.
Secondly, it was stated that the WhatsApp corrupted video vulnerability was present not only on Apple phones but also, Android and Windows phones. This means that WhatsApp Messenger is more vulnerable regardless of the device that hosts the messaging app.
Durov argued that Telegram Messenger started using the end-to-end encryption for mass communication before WhatsApp adopted it. Despite the fact that this is a very good feature, another aspect of the messaging app can make it useless.
Telegram has understood the strength and limitations of the feature, and they are very mindful of it. Durov explained that certain things can go wrong whiles using the end-to-end feature. First and foremost, users mostly backup their chats in third-party cloud services like the iCloud. They mostly do this to avoid losing important chats and keeping secret communications protected. However, these third party cloud backups are not encrypted. Telegram CEO claimed that his platform does not rely on third-party backup clouds and does not store any secret chat.
Another point was raised by Durov which is very interesting. According to him, Backdoors is another reason why using encryption can be rendered useless. He explained that Law Enforcement has raised concerns about the use of encryption by messaging app developers. This has forced some apps to create an intentional backdoor that seems like an accidental security flaw. Durov revealed that he has been confronted multiple times but has decided to maintain his stand. This has been the reason why Telegram Messenger is banned in some regions where WhatsApp is still in operation. The bottom line is that WhatsApp might have created some backdoors to satisfy enforcement whiles pretending to be security flaws.
He stated that 12 security flaws have been found in WhatsApp with 7 of them being very critical in the last 12 months. Telegram founder claimed that his platform has not had any of these issues in the last 6 years.
Image Source: www.forbes.com
The article also made claims on the encryption implementation on the WhatsApp Messaging app. According to Durov, there is no guarantee that WhatsApp Messenger is really using the encryption they claim to be using. The reason is that its source code is hidden. It is difficult to analyze the app as its binary is obfuscated. He said Telegram Messenger is open source and its encryption has been documented since 2013.
He stated that some apps are very dangerous as they draw users’ attention to end-to-end encryption as the only thing to look at when considering the security of an app, whiles they perform their tricks elsewhere.
Durov has raised important and sensitive issues in the WhatsApp messaging app which is very serious for concern if they are really true. Many people rely on it for their day to day communication. It is even more worrying considering the fact that hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities in apps and phones to access users’ information to blackmail them or sell them on the dark web.
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