(Reuters file)
(Reuters file)

Opinion | Cracks in the armour

Israeli cyber security firm Check Point Software Technologies has found three flaws in the app that hackers could exploit to manipulate messages and influence online conversations

The Indian government and WhatsApp may have new issues to spar over. An Israeli cyber security firm, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, says it has found three flaws in the app that hackers could exploit to manipulate messages and influence online conversations. This, despite the “end-to-end encryption" promised by the social media platform. According to this report, one loophole involves the “quote" feature in a group chat, which can be used to alter the appearance of a message sender’s identity. A hacker could use another technical infirmity to change the text of someone’s reply. A third chink in the armour, which the report says has been fixed, could let a person send a private message to another member of a group, but without the addressee realizing that a response would be visible to everyone in the chat. The report says a spokesperson of the firm refused to comment.

If Check Point’s findings hold any merit, it would unsettle large numbers of WhatsApp users. It would also complicate the app’s dialogue with the Indian government over the problem of fake news and mischievous forwards. To contain the menace, the government has wanted an accessible record kept of the identity of message originators. That messages can be mangled and masked would make any effort to identify culprits harder still. If the app is indeed vulnerable to hackers, the Facebook-owned service should act rightaway to strengthen its network security. So far, the confidentiality of the app has been trusted by users. It mustn’t lose that trust.

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