WhatsApp confirms "targeted" surveillance attack

The company noted, however, that only a "select number of users were targeted" in the attack.

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with surveillance watchdog group Citizen Lab, says one of those targeted by the WhatsApp attack was a human rights lawyer based in the U.K. Scott-Railton also stated that the lawyer was representing, among other clients, a Saudi dissident in Canada now suing NSO Group.

The FT reported that teams of engineers had worked around the clock in San Francisco and London to close the vulnerability and it began rolling out a fix to its servers on Friday last week and issued a patch for customers on Monday, according to Reuters.

WhatsApp users are now being urged to install the app's latest update to protect against future hack attempts.

The attack was first discovered earlier this month. Due to a Whatsapp vulnerability, bad actors installed a surveillance technology by ringing up targets using the application's phone function. The victim doesn't even need to pick up - the sole moment of dialing a device is enough for the hacker to deliver the payload and install the surveillance software.

WhatsApp believes only a handful of people, including human-rights activists and a UK-lawyer, were targeted. And there is a growing consensus that the attack is aimed at human rights campaigners. A spokesman for Stephen Peel, whose private equity firm Novalpina recently announced the purchase of part of NSO, did not return an email seeking comment.

So, if your phone offers you an update for WhatsApp, do it or check it manually by reaching App Store or Play Store.

NSO Group has commented on the report, stating that it only provides its software to government agencies "for the sole goal of fighting crime and terror" and doesn't use such software itself. The group made a statement saying, "NSO's technology is licensed to authorised government agencies for the sole objective of fighting crime and terror".

Who has been targeted?

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NSO software was used in 2016 to target award-winning UAE activist Ahmed Mansoor.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the malicious software resembled a spyware developed by intelligence agencies. NSO, however, rejected the notion that it was involved. You phone should then update.

"There needs to be some accountability for this, it can't just continue to be a wild west, secretive industry".

On Tuesday, the Tel Aviv District Court will hear a petition supported by Amnesty International and other human rights groups, calling on the Ministry of Defense to revoke NSO Group's export license.

What are the unanswered questions?

What could the spyware do? . Professor Woodward went on to say, "Using an app as an attack route is limited on iOS as they run apps in very tightly controlled sandboxes".

WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging tools in the world, is used by 1.5 billion people monthly.

The BBC has asked WhatsApp for clarification.

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