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TIM BRADSHAW: WhatsApp users are being urged to download a new security update today after a vulnerability emerged that could give hackers access to their devices with little more than a phone call. 1.5 billion people use WhatsApp regularly to keep in touch with friends and family. But it has emerged a new vulnerability could allow spyware to be installed that could open their microphone or camera to a very targeted hacking attack. WhatsApp says that it has patched the vulnerability on its servers and is pushing through an app update out of an abundance of caution.
And it is unclear how many people have been targeted in this attack. But it is something that requires a very specific targeting, rather than a blanket coverage that could affect a lot of people in one go. A secretive Israeli security company known as NSO Group is believed to be behind the attack. NSO is the company behind Pegasus, which is a rare form of mobile malware that is able to target iPhones as well as Androids.
The attack is delivered by a missed call on your phone, which can then be used to inject Pegasus into the device and allow hackers to eavesdrop through the camera and microphone of the device. However, it is unclear how many people have been targeted or how long this vulnerability has been open. The hacking tool is believed to have been used to target human rights law in the UK, although researchers say that the changes that WhatsApp has already made on the server side were successful in preventing the attack from going through.
While only a small number of WhatsApp's users are believed to have been affected by this attack, it is now the subject of a US Department of Justice investigation. And everybody is being urged to update their apps as soon as possible.