WhatsApp is new buzzword of the town. WhatsApp is coined as next big thing after Facebook in Social Media. Now both are cousins as Facebook recently bought WhatsApp. Though i am Tech Savvy but i am vary of misuse of Social Media & Technology. Recently i observed some critical privacy concerns in WhatsApp. I am going to list them along with possible solution. Readers are free to add more (if any) in the comments section.
Permission to add contact in WhatsApp
The biggest privacy flaw in WhatsApp is that you don’t need permission of a person to add him like in Facebook or Google+. If you know the mobile no of a person than just save it in your Phone Book and you can see the profile of the person. In short, if you know the mobile no of any particular person than you can add that person in your WhatsApp contact list without any hassle or permissions. This feature expose an individual to outside world without his/her knowledge. Though there is a functionality to block contacts but it only block incoming messages from blocked contacts.
WhatsApp is installed on Handset
We all know this fact that WhatsApp is installed on Handset but hardly anyone observed the most critical flaw in WhatsApp which i found out accidentally. In WhatsApp unique identifier of your account is Mobile No but it is authenticated only once at the time of registration. Once the WhatsApp application is installed on handset and Mobile No is authenticated than Mobile No loose its relevance from privacy point of view.
Recently i changed my Handset A and retained the existing Mobile No X. I inserted my Mobile No X in Handset B. Now my WhatsApp application linked to Mobile No X was installed on Handset A. Although i inserted SIM of Mobile No X in Handset B but i was able to use WhatsApp linked to my Mobile No X in Handset A. In short, post one time authentication there is no check whether Messages are being pushed from same handset with Mobile No X i.e. Whether Mobile No X is same for both handset and WhatsApp. It can lead to misuse of identity.
Possible misuse of this flaw is when you change your Handset or Mobile No. When you change your handset without uninstalling WhatsApp than anyone can use WhatsApp linked to your mobile no from old handset. In short, Without using your SIM he/she can send messages from your mobile number through old handset. The snooper need only data connection to do so. In second scenario, if you change your mobile no than all such no’s are recycled by telecom operator. In future, someone else might get this mobile no & if you forgot to delete your WhatsApp account linked to this Mobile No before disconnecting than it can be misused as the new user can retrieve your groups, messages etc.
(a) Handset Change: Please uninstall WhatsApp and other applications like Skype, Facebook etc before your change your handset to avoid misuse
(b) Mobile No Change: In case you are changing your mobile no than it is advisable to delete your WhatsApp account linked to corresponding Mobile No. Its very simple
Click Settings >> Account >> Delete my account
If you wish to retain messages, WhatsApp groups & settings than instead of deleting account, Change Number.
Click Settings >> Account >> Change number
Personal Info on WhatsApp
Knowingly or unknowingly we share loads of personal info through WhatsApp. As i mentioned in point 1 that anyone can add you on WhatsApp if he/she knows your mobile no. By adding you, following information is visible to general public
1. Profile Photo
3. “Last seen” status
Snooping is very common these days and above 3 points provide wealth of information to Snooper. Last year during Diwali, one of my friend updated her WhatsApp profile pic from Goa. Her WhatsApp status was “Dasvidaniya Delhi…Go Goa”. In there absence there was Robbery in the house. The thief was caught in Mar’14 and thief admitted that there gang was using WhatsApp and other social media services to keep track of targets.
“Last Seen” status show when you were online last time. Corporate keep tab on their employees i.e. roughly how much time an employee spend on social media or it gives critical information about your usage behavior. Just for study purpose, i analysed this information and observed most of the people go online between 12:30 PM to 2:3o PM and between 8 PM to 9 PM. This information can be captured by snoopers, spammers or marketers for commercial use or snooping.
Solution:The solution to this problem is change privacy settings of WhatsApp.
Click Settings >> Account >> Privacy
For all 3 personal info section i.e. Last Seen, Profile Photo and Status you will find 3 privacy options i.e. Everyone, My Contacts & Nobody. Select “Nobody” or “My contacts” for all 3 options.
I hope that you liked the post. Social Media is fun but at the same time too much information in public domain is not good for your personal safety and security. Use Social Media more responsibly to enjoy the positive side of Social Media. I have tried to cover all the points but if i missed any point, Please feel free to add in following comments section. I will include all the relevant points in the post along with your Name.
Copyright © Nitin Bhatia. All Rights Reserved.
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