Journalism of Courage

Be warned: New spyware steals WhatsApp chats, pictures and data

Security experts have warned WhatsApp and smartphone users to be extra vigilant, as there is a spy software going around that can secretly read chats, take selfies and record audio and video.

Described as one of the “most advanced” and highly sophisticated malware that has already infected some mobile phones, Skygofree can enable hackers to spy into a user’s internet activity, track location and steal critical information like passwords and card numbers.

“It collects messages from WhatsApp.. [and] can secretly turn on the front-facing camera and take a shot when the user unlocks the device – one can only guess how the criminals will use these photos,” cybersecurity firm Kapersky said in a report.

The spy tool is spread through fake mobile operator websites, where it is disguised as an update to improve mobile internet speed.

Downloading pirated software or any software from untrusted sources, opening attachments from people you don’t know, or even from those you know [who may have forwarded a funny video, for example, can make a user vulnerable].”

“You need to be careful when you install an app that asks too many permissions.

That means that when a gaming app asks permission to access your contact list or images, you need to be wary. “If a photo editing app requests access to your contact list and phone calls, you should question and understand why this is necessary.

Kaspersky has also shared the following tips to protect users:

1. Install apps only from official stores. It’s wise to disable installation of apps from third-party sources, which you can do in your smartphone settings.

2. If in doubt, don’t download. Pay attention to misspelled app names, small numbers of downloads, or dubious requests for permissions — any of these things should raise flags.

3. Install a reliable security solution. This will protect your device from most malicious apps and files, suspicious websites, and dangerous links. In the free version scans must be run manually; the paid version scans automatically.


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