The popular cellular application, WhatsApp, had been the victim of mobile malware, targeting users through messages as a means to siphon personal and financial information from WhatsApp users. These cyber attacks became prevalent among users in India at the beginning of 2017, reminiscent of a similar malware incursion via WhatsApp that struck the UK in 2016. Understanding the warning signs of potentially malicious or fake messages allows WhatsApp users to better protect themselves against potentially harmful or calamitous malware disguised as regular in-app messaging.
- Avoid messages from government institutions. The malware attacks in India were disguised as messages from two government agencies, the National Defense Academy (NDA) and National Investigation Agency (NIA) respectively. Exercising skepticism over governmental or universally recognised agencies will deter malware viruses before they can reach the personal contents of your mobile device.
- In the UK WhatsApp malware attacks, the viruses were disguised as messages forwarded from WhatsApp contacts. Verifying the names and numbers of contacts after receiving direct or forwarded messages from unfamiliar contacts allows WhatsApp users to identify, block, and/or take action against fake contacts.
- Malware is often disguised as promotional content. Receiving messages promoting prizes, vouchers, or other winnings should prompt users to exercise caution. If a URL link is included, is best to first type the address in a search engine to verify the legitimacy of the contacting website. URLs with a history of virus/malware related activity will be identified after minimal online research.
- Malware promising application updates creates false links within messages to gain access to the mobile user's personal and financial information. Users are encouraged to update applications in the application store itself, from where it was originally downloaded. Responding to, or clicking on links promising updates via text, SMS, or other messaging services can render users susceptible to malware.
Understanding messaging threats allows WhatsApp users to protect themselves from malware intentionally disguised as non-threatening interaction. Users that become perceptive to the signs of messaging viruses can protect themselves and others. By identifying potential hazards users can provide further preventative information for other users, essentially fortifying the app by expanding information about messaging protection.