WhatsApp and Telegram users are in danger! Hackers have found a way to steal their identities and accounts by exploiting a flaw in telecom services and all they need is a number. Unfortunately, users can’t do anything to protect themselves and they can only hope they won’t be the next victims.
This time, nobody is blaming WhatsApp or Telegram for having problems that could lead to security vulnerabilities. The culprit behind this problem is Signaling System 7 (SS7), which represents a global network of carriers and which uses out-of-band signaling, which allows signaling (control) information to travel on a separate channel (dedicated 56 or 64 Kbps), not within the same channel (as phone calls).
There are many S7 vulnerabilities and even governments know about them and they don’t insist harder to get them fixed, leaving users vulnerable to hacking attacks. Because of these unsolved issues, hackers are able to identify users’ phone numbers, they track them and gather all data they receive on their devices, or send to others.
It is known that WhatsApp and Telegram have introduced end-to-end encryption, and theoretically, they should be immune to these attacks, but in reality, their data is being accessed by hackers who managed to exploit SS7 loopholes and to spoof the other person’s number.
When the two applications try to verify a spoofed account, they’ll detect the same phone number and will send the encryption key that is needed to decrypt data. And this is how hackers get their hands on the secret key, they use it to decrypt messages and they start to read them.
Unfortunately, only telecom operators can stop these attacks by upgrading their protocols and installing firewalls but if they don’t do it, all users are exposed to hackers who exploit SS7 loopholes. We don’t know how many people have fallen victims to hackers, but we guess it’s a small number. So far.