WHATSAPP is rolling out a new ‘joinable calls’ feature but experts are warning it could leave you vulnerable to snoopers.
The feature will allow users to join a call once it’s already started but there are some concerns it could lead to eavesdropping, although WhatsApp strongly denies this.
Victor Chebyshev, Lead Security Researcher at Kaspersky, told us: “From a security point of view, being able to join a call already in progress increases the risk of eavesdropping.
“The bottom line is that if an attacker is in a WhatsApp group, it won’t be difficult for them to connect to a call.
“All they have to do is wait until most of the participants have started and then hope that they can join unnoticed.
“The attacker also doesn’t need to sit and wait for the start of the call, as they connect at any time.
“It is however worth noting that members of the group – especially the administrator – can keep track of participants and ensure that outsiders are not joining.”
The new feature was announced earlier this week and will see changes to the “Calls” section of your WhatsApp.
“The attacker also doesn’t need to sit and wait for the start of the call, as they connect at any time.” – Victor Chebyshev, Lead Security Researcher at Kaspersky
You’ll get a notification about a group call you’ve been invited to and if it’s still ongoing by the time you get on the app then you can click “Join”.
You’ll also have the option to “Ignore” and check who is in the call before you join.
Joinable calls will still be end-to-end encrypted and it seems an attacker would have to have control of a WhatsApp account that’s already in a group chat if they wanted to eavesdrop.
Chebyshev added: “The messenger application itself guarantees the privacy of data exchange in the group through the use of end-to-end encryption.
“Thus, neither the app itself, nor the people trying to organise a man-in-the-middle attack, will be able to intercept either group correspondence or calls, including group calls.
“To date, most of the malicious software has focused on intercepting archived WhatsApp messages and online dialogues, and we have not yet encountered any interception of calls, let alone group calls.
“Nevertheless, if a device is infected, it is highly likely that the Trojan will have the ability to record the device microphone and camera – enabling attackers to eavesdrop on any conversations, regardless of the communication channel used, be it an instant messenger or a regular call on a mobile phone.”
The joinable calls feature is rolling out now.
You may need to update your WhatsApp to see it.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told us: “This theory has no basis in fact. It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding about how calls on WhatsApp work.
“To protect our users’ privacy, you are not able to join a call unless you have been invited, and all participants of a call are visible to everyone on the call.”
How to use joinable calls safely
The best thing to do is be vigilant about who is joining the call.
As WhatsApp has said, all participants will be able to see who is on the call.
You can always ask a participant to speak if you think a ‘snooper’ may be on their WhatsApp account.
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