Flaw in WhatsApp Security Revealed

A security flaw in WhatsApp could enable a hacker to spy on a private group chat, warn researchers.

The vulnerability means that anyone with access to WhatsApp servers can join a private group or insert someone without the chatroom administrator’s permission.

The findings from researchers at Ruhr University in Germany point out that sensitive conversations including those by women MPs at Westminster discussing sexual harassment could be infiltrated by an outsider.

Also, once a hacker accesses a group they then have the phone number of each group member and will automatically share secret keys and have access to all future messages.

The researchers say that for any users who are looking for absolute privacy in their group chat should sign up with encrypted app Signal or restrict their WhatsApp use to simply sending private messages.

The researchers also called on WhatsApp to introduce a new authentication mechanism for any new invitations to a group.

Mobile app growth is slowing down

Researchers at Flurry say that the growth in global mobile apps is slowing down even though smartphone users are still spending more than five hours every day using their device.

Now the firm says that apps need to build-in daily usage habits in a bid to boost growth.

Flurry has now measured app activity growth and found that in 2016, the number of sessions grew by just 6%. In 2015, growth was 11%.

They have tracked more than 1 million apps across more than 2.6 billion devices for their study.

Also, there are big changes in how people use apps; for shopping, use grew by 54% as consumers continue to move their spending online with media, music and entertainment coming a close second with 43% growth.

The steepest decline was seen by lifestyle apps which fell by 40%. Gaming also fell again with a decline measured at 15%.

‘Open Banking’ sparks security fears

New rules imposed from 13 January mean a revolution is about to hit the finance world.

That’s when we will get more power over the data that banks hold about us.

The aim is to boost competition and help us save more money.

However, industry experts say that the growing use of banking apps is creating a big security concern with crooks able to carry out more bank transfer scams.

The rules have been introduced by the European Union so banks and building societies must now allow developers of web and mobile phone apps to plug into the user’s current account data if the customer gives them permission.

Flashlight apps hit by malware

Researchers have revealed that malicious adware has infected more than 22 flashlight apps which have been downloaded between 1.5 and 7.5 million times.

The malware has been tagged as ‘LightsOut’ and will generate ad revenue secretly for its developers.

The malware will bombard constantly the phone’s user with pop-up ads that must be clicked before they can use their device.

The apps are found on Google’s Play Store and after they have been launched, the app hides its icon on the main screen so it is more difficult to find and then uninstall the app.

Child-friendly apps hide malware

Researchers say they have found more than 60 child-friendly apps that are hiding malware designed to rob mobile phone users or display pornography.

The apps are available from Google Play Store and, security firm CheckPoint says, the apps have child friendly themes including ‘Fidget spinner for Minecraft’. They’ve called the malware AdultSwine and Google now says it has removed the apps from Play.

In other mobile phone app news …

Some of Apple’s biggest investors are calling on the firm to limit how long children can use apps and its smartphones. The call has been welcomed by academics who say that imposing restrictions will help youngsters.

Russian smartphone users are being warned over malware that will access their banking text messages to enable criminals to intercept bank security codes. They can then use the codes to access and reset bank account passwords and empty the bank account itself. The malware is dubbed as ‘FakeBank’.

Google Phone Apps Are Listening In

An investigation has revealed that apps on Google’s Play Store are allowing firms to listen in on the TV shows being watched by users so they can target adverts more effectively.

The findings from the New York Times reveals that more than 250 Android apps are using listening software that will control the smartphone’s microphone.

The same method is being used by 24 apps found in Apple’s App Store.

Most of the apps tend to be free games that are being downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and are being rated as suitable for all age groups.

The apps are using software from an American company called Alphonso which collects television viewing data for advertising firms – they say the technology is being used in more than 1,000 apps but refuses to disclose which these are.

They point out that the app’s terms and conditions make clear the app’s monitoring activities and users must give their permission to opt in.

Conflicting advice sees drivers prosecuted

Drivers in the UK are being prosecuted when using their smartphone as a satnav because of conflicting advice which is causing confusion.

Motoring organisations say that police forces and government ministers are creating the confusion by offering advice about what is legal and illegal when it comes to using a mobile phone when driving.

With tougher new penalties being introduced last year to clamp down on drivers using phones to send text messages and make calls, the move also covered the use of satnav apps.

Drivers are warned by the Department for Transport they should not to ‘use’ their phones while at the wheel but police in some parts of the UK say drivers are not allowed to ‘touch’ their phone or it should be placed ‘out of sight’.

With more than 200 drivers being prosecuted every day, motoring organisations are urging clarity over the use of mobile phones and any apps that can be used safely.

App can find people in an emergency

Researchers have developed an app that can find people who have had an accident in a remote area without a phone signal.

The team from Universidad de Alicante in Spain say the app can also be used for other emergency situations including floods, earthquakes and forest fires where the local mobile phone infrastructure has been destroyed.

A spokesman said: “The app can be used with any smartphone and without the signal will emit the WiFi signal which will act as a distress beacon over several kilometres.”

The signal carries the co-ordinates of the person who has had an accident along with a short message that gives brief details about what has happened to them.

To operate, the mobile phone app needs to be activated will which will then activate the distress signal.

In other mobile phone app news …

The new version of the iconic Nokia 3310 phone will soon connect to 4G and will run a number of basic Android apps. One of those will be a stripped down version of WhatsApp.

Apple has unveiled an update to its App Store guidelines including those apps used for exhibitions and live events.

Google has announced that its Android Auto app will go wireless this year without the need for a compatible head unit to access apps.

A report from online travel agent Opodo has revealed that Millennials are so obsessed with their smartphones that 75% of them say that they worry more about their battery life than enjoying the holiday.

Visitors to St Mark’s Square in Venice can use a new app which will tell them when to avoid the area if it’s overcrowded. The implementation coincides with the introduction of traffic lights to help control pedestrian access.