Tips to be protected against WhatsApp malware

As the most popular messaging application of all time, you would expect WhatsApp to be updated with new features quite regularly. Sure enough, a new update is due to arrive in a matter of days, offering several new functions that will make the app even more useful.

But like every new update, you need to take care that you understand how to use these new features safely. Otherwise you be opening your phone up to criminals and information thieves.

There is one key update that is sure to be incredibly popular in the next release – the ability to send files via text message.

Files and document sharing

For some people, instant messaging apps have almost replaced email. When they want to get in touch with their friends, a quick WhatsApp text message allows them to make contact almost immediately.

Sometimes however, you need to send someone a document, or maybe an electronic ticket, or something similar. But up until now you’ve had to use email to share these files.

To help make their users’ lives easier, WhatsApp are currently testing a file-sharing feature that will allow people to send documents to each other using the messaging platform. There are a couple of limitations (such as the size of the file), but in most respects this is exactly the kind of feature people want.

Staying safe

Email is one of the most effective methods for delivering malware – and for tricking victims into installing it. With the ability to send files via WhatsApp, it is highly likely that cybercriminals will begin to turn their attentions to how they can use it to deliver malware to people’s phones.

Because the new WhatsApp feature allows you to send any kind of file, the dangers are much greater – particularly for Android smartphone users. Cybercriminals will be able to send APK (Android Package Kit) files to their victims.

An APK is a complete application that can be run installed and run on an Android smartphone. Which means that hackers don’t have to do anything particularly clever once the attachment has been delivered – they just need to convince you to run it once. After that, the malware is free to steal data – and you may not even realise anything is wrong.

Fortunately the techniques used to protect against WhatsApp malware are very similar to the ones you already use for email.

1. Check the sender

You should never open attachments or files sent by someone you don’t know. If an unknown contact messages you, delete the attachment immediately. If the message is genuine, the sender will be more than happy to forward another copy later.

2. Install anti-malware security software

Well engineered malware may be able to execute itself once it has been received by WhatsApp. To prevent malware from installing itself on your phone and stealing sensitive information, you should first install a security tool like Panda Mobile Security.

Anti-malware software will scan incoming messages and files, and alert you if an infected app is trying to be installed. You will then be able to delete malware before it can harm your device.

Fortunately you can protect your smartphone now, before the WhatsApp update is released.

To learn more, and to avoid falling victim to mobile malware…