This Malware Can Tamper With Photos Saved From WhatsApp & Telegram

Both these popular messaging platforms claim to offer end-to-end encryption for messages.

Published16 Jul 2019, 07:57 AM IST
Tech News
2 min read

If you thought instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption give you rock-solid security, think again. Researchers from cyber-security firm Symantec on Monday revealed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to manipulate the images and audio files you receive on these platforms.

The security flaw, dubbed "Media File Jacking", affected WhatsApp for Android by default, and Telegram for Android if certain features were enabled, Symantec researchers said in a blog post.

According to the researchers, WhatsApp saves files to external storage automatically, while Telegram does so when the "Save to Gallery" feature is enabled.

However, neither apps have any system in place to protect users from a Media File Jacking attack, the researchers from Symantec's Modern OS Security team explained.

Attackers could exploit this vulnerability to scam victims in various ways.

If the security flaw is exploited, a malicious attacker could misuse and manipulate sensitive information such as personal photos and videos, corporate documents, invoices, and voice memos
Alon Gat and Yair Amit, Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, Modern OS Security, Symantec
This Malware Can Tamper With Photos Saved From WhatsApp & Telegram
(Photo: Symantec)

Giving example of image manipulation, the researchers said a seemingly innocent, but actually malicious, app downloaded by a user could manipulate personal photos in near-real time and without the victim knowing.

The app runs in the background and performs a “Media File Jacking attack” while the victim uses WhatsApp.

It monitors for photos received through the app, identifies faces in photos, and replaces them with something else, such as other faces or objects. The worry is, using the same vulnerability, attackers could make payment manipulation, audio message spoofing or spread fake news.

"The Media File Jacking threat is especially concerning in light of the common perception that the new generation of IM (instant messaging) apps are immune to content manipulation and privacy risks, thanks to the utilisation of security mechanisms like end-to-end encryption," they added.

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