At least 3 WhatsApp users in Hyderabad fall prey to social engineering attack in one week
Simple yet malicious, this WhatsApp hack may have been recently reported, but the modus operandi is not entirely new and there may still be a way to completely prevent such attacks.
At least three people in Hyderabad over the past week have fallen victim to a form of social engineering hack where malicious actors gain unauthorized access to a person’s WhatsApp account.
Hyderabad Cyber Crime Police Station house officer KVM Prasad described the attack while speaking to a local news channel in Telugu V6. This is how it works –
- The malicious actor signs up on WhatsApp using the victim’s number, then calls them to convince them to give the OTP.
- Once the OTP has been given, the actor logs into the person’s account and activates two-factor authentication. This locks out the account owner
- If there are chat saves, the hacker will now have access to them
- The malicious actor then identifies the people with whom the person has had the most conversations and sends them a malicious link.
- By clicking on the link, that person’s phone is infected
- The actor also sends messages to the person’s friends asking for money. Recipients fall into the trap of thinking their friend is sending them a message.
– Cyberabad Economic Crimes Wing (@EOWCyberabad) August 18, 2021
“In the last few days alone, we have received three cases. Even if it’s from your friend, don’t click on unknown links on WhatsApp, ”Prasad told NTV. We have contacted Prasad with our questions and will update the post when we receive a response.
Unlike nation-state cyber attacks or attacks that exploit a platform’s vulnerability, social engineering attacks have to do with our susceptibility to such scams and our complacency when it comes to securing our devices. .
Similar attacks were recorded earlier
This type of attack where the actor hijacks his WhatsApp account is not new. Cyber security researchers have previously recorded similar social engineering attacks where the actor has access to and access to the OTP of a WhatsApp account. According to the account of the police in the city of Hyderabad, the only new element is the way in which the hacker gained access to the OTP.
For example, a researcher from Cygenta, a UK-based cybersecurity company, was the target of a similar attack last year. Madeline Howard, the researcher in a blog post, said: “When you download and install WhatsApp on a new device, WhatsApp will then send the mobile number you entered a 6-digit verification code. This code verifies that you have the mobile number and the device. Once the 6-digit code is entered, this device will receive WhatsApp messages for that account.
Here’s how it works next, according to Howard –
- For this attack to work, the attacker will have already compromised an individual’s WhatsApp account (he could have done this through Facebook, not necessarily WhatsApp himself).
- “In this case, the account they compromised belonged to an old friend,” she said. The attacker then sends a message to the friends of the original victim stating that they accidentally sent them the code or are having trouble receiving the code.
- “Here you can see the attacker claiming that he ‘sent’ me the code by mistake. I received the 6-digit code via SMS from WhatsApp, making the whole attack more plausible. If I had then returned the 6-digit code, the attackers would have also managed to compromise my WhatsApp account, ”she added.
How to prevent such attacks?
According to WhatsApp, you can set up a two-step verification process which is “an optional feature that adds more security to your WhatsApp account.” You will see the two-step verification screen after successfully registering your phone number on WhatsApp.
In this two-step verification, one can enter their email address which will allow WhatsApp to email a reset link in case someone has forgotten their PIN code.
“To help you remember your PIN code, WhatsApp will ask you to enter your PIN code periodically. Unfortunately, there is no option to turn this off without turning off the two-step verification feature, ”WhatsApp’s FAQ section said.
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