WhatsApp –the Facebook-owned giant that really needs no introduction– is seemingly on a mission for world domination, this time, taking on Snapchat.
The instant messaging company’s new WhatsApp Status feature will allow users to privately share edited photos, videos and GIFs, with their contacts, that will disappear after 24 hours.
It’s not the first Facebook-led Snapchat Stories copycat, but it’s perhaps the most ambitious. WhatsApp, with over a billion users, have really taken on the competition here.
One of the interesting points that Whatsapp have always made sure to emphasize in their blog is the “security by default” principle which will be upheld by Stories.
In the Status feature statement, Jan Koum has said “yes, even your status updates are end-to-end encrypted.”
But Is It Really As Safe As They Say?
Hervé Lambert, Retail Global Consumer Operations Manager at Panda Security says that the use of Whatsapp Status is still not risk-free:
“After having carried out various studies on the behavior of people on social media, we’ve detected a few potential risks that all users of this new version of WhatsApp Status should recognize.”
Your Status Will Be “Public” By Default
The default setting on WhatsApp Status will be set to public. All of your statuses will be visible to any contact you have on your phone. To some, this may entail a real invasion of privacy as most people hand out their phone number much more readily than they accept someone on social media. Think of the amount of work acquaintances or casual contacts that will have access to potentially private posts.
“We have to take into consideration that we can’t tell certain details of our private lives to all our contacts. We don’t know what these people could do with this information,” adds Hervé Lambert.
Hackers Can Breach WhatsApp’s Vulnerabilities
WhatsApp certainly prides itself on being a secure app with its end-to-end encryption, and rightly so. However, the fact that it boasts millions of users still makes it a target for hackers who seek to carry out cyber attacks on large amounts of people. For these attackers, it’s a probability game; the more users they try to attack the more likely they will succeed.
Apple’s, iOS Messenger, has recently been exposed by cybersecurity experts. Though the vulnerability in that app is by no means a cause for great concern in itself, it shows that encrypted messaging apps are not impenetrable.
Who are these types of features usually aimed at? It’s possible that Whatsapp Status could be a ploy to encourage less tech-savvy users to cross over to more involving social media, like Facebook itself, after having tried out the new Whatsapp feature for the first time.
However, it’s safe to say that features like Status, Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories are most popular amongst young kids who enjoy the ability to post weird and wonderful images that won’t be saved on a profile indefinitely.
Unfortunately, young people are also perhaps the most vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
The very fact that the posted statuses are less permanent leads some young people to post photos or videos that are more risqué in nature. Cybercriminals look for this kind of content online to lead vulnerable young people into paying a ransom, or carrying out undesired actions if they don’t want the content shared with the public. Caution is always advised when posting online.
Pirate “Complementary” Apps
When a new feature comes out like Whatsapp Status, there’s usually a huge buzz, and a frenzied search for new functionalities. This is something that cybercriminals try to take advantage of.
It’s important to be weary of new apps claiming to add functionalities to Whatsapp Status. This is specially the case with apps that “promise” they can bypass important functionalities. With apps like Instagram and Facebook, they usually claim they will allow you to see who’s looked at your profile. With Whatsapp Status it would be unsurprising to see some that claim to allow you to still see photos after the 24 hours have passed.
These apps are largely malicious and they draw people in by claiming to be able to bypass an integral functionality of the app. As you try to use the pirate app it could be loading ransomware onto your device. Don’t be drawn in by desires to byspass main functions of an app.
As the new WhatsApp Status feature is rolled out, more possible risks will likely come to the attention of users and cybersecurity experts. Though WhatsApp is a safe app, relatively speaking, it’s important to be careful what you post online and where. It’s not always completely clear who has access to the data.