Apple's privacy promises would have been useless against a simple missed call from WhatsApp hackers

GettyApple CEO Tim Cook.
  • The Financial Times reported on Monday that hackers were able to access people’s phones by exploiting a vulnerability in WhatsApp.
  • iPhone, Android, and Windows users were vulnerable, and the spyware used by the hackers was developed by an Israeli company called NSO Group.
  • In a separate report, the FT said that NSO has boasted in the past about its ability to hack into iPhones.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple has long held itself up as the top smartphone maker for privacy. On Monday, the company released an advert touting its encrypted messaging service, the latest in a series of ads lauding the company’s privacy policy.

But such promises would not have protected users from a major WhatsApp hack, first reported by the Financial Times on Monday.

Attackers were able to hack WhatsApp to access victims’ phones, the FT said. WhatsApp wasn’t immediately able to say how many people had been affected, but some human rights activists had been targeted.


Read more:
WhatsApp was hacked and attackers installed spyware on people’s phones

The hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability by calling the target via WhatsApp. Even if they didn’t pick up, the malware was able to infect the target. The FT reported that the spyware used by the hackers was developed by Israeli company NSO Group, whose Pegasus software has been used to target human rights activists in the past.

The malware affected Android, iPhones, and Windows phones, Facebook said on Monday, and it seems Apple’s encryption was no match for it.

In a separate report, the FT detailed how NSO boasted of its ability to crack into Apple devices – as the company has a strong reputation when it comes to privacy and security.

An unidentified potential investor told the FT that, at an investor presentation last month, NSO bragged about its ability to hack iPhones, saying Apple’s security patches weren’t enough to cover the “weaknesses exploited by Pegasus.”

Read more: WhatsApp users are being urged to update the app immediately after it was hacked – here’s how to get protected

An anonymous European businessman involved in a 2017 sales pitch from NSO to Saudi Arabia also told the FT that the firm showed off its iPhone cracking abilities. NSO reps brought in a brand new iPhone and showed off how quickly the company’s tech could take over its camera and microphone.

Apple declined to comment when contacted by the FT. It was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Facebook is advising users update WhatsApp to get protected. A spokesman said: “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices.”

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