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The simple way to protect yourself against the recent WhatsApp hack

Jessica Yun
Photos of the WhatsApp app. Update your app to protect yourself against security loopholes.
Update your WhatsApp app. (Photos: Getty)

Popular messaging app WhatsApp has this week sounded the alarm on spyware being installed on people’s devices without them knowing.

Hackers exploited a vulnerability that allowed them to remotely install Israeli-made surveillance software into an unknown number of victim’s phones by calling them through the app’s call function, as first reported in the Financial Times.

WhatsApp – which is used by 1.5 billion people monthly – said it has since fixed the vulnerability, but there are still steps you can take to protect yourself.

And it doesn’t take much: simply update your WhatsApp app if you haven’t done so since Tuesday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, today we are encouraging users to update WhatsApp and, as always, keep their mobile OS updated, to receive the latest security protections,” WhatsApp said in a statement to Buzzfeed News.

The simple fix

If you’re on an iPhone or iOS device, just head to your App store and hit ‘Update’ next to WhatsApp Messenger.

If you have an Android, go to your Play Store and tap ‘Update’.

Screenshots of what the update screen looks like for Apple (left) and Android users (right).
The update screen for Apple (left) and Android users (right). (Source: Yahoo Finance)

Users who find the app has already automatically updated may see an ‘Open’ button instead.

Updating your software is important because the updates close up vulnerabilities in your apps and operating systems that cyber criminals can use to gain access to your devices, Stay Smart Online said.

“Typically attackers exploit vulnerabilities in order to perform other malicious actions, such as stealing or corrupting information, installing malware or stopping the affected system from working correctly.”

People should automatically update their apps when they become available, Stay Smart Online encouraged.

“Automatic updates minimise the risk of delaying or forgetting to apply an update, and limit the chance that cybercriminals will gain access to your devices and sensitive personal and financial data.”

Earlier this year, Stay Smart Online warned Aussies against a hack that allowed cyber criminals to gain access to the devices of users who had not changed their default PIN codes.

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